Extreme microbes may aid nuclear waste disposal

Researchers with the Department of Energy, hip to the latest trends, have developed genetically manipulated “extreme microbes” that reportedly survive entirely on Red Bull and communicate via appropriated skater slang. Ah, we kid. But there are some pretty bitchin’ microbes out there. Able to survive in earth’s most inhospitable environments — some thrive at above-boiling temperatures, enjoy the company of toxic chemicals, and can endure large doses of radiation — these “extremophiles” may become a valuable tool for eliminating nuclear waste. Lab-enhanced versions could be drafted to begin ingesting and breaking down toxins “in the not-too-distant future,” outgoing Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said earlier this year. In addition to saving money — the Energy Department estimates conventional clean-up methods for nuclear waste could cost up to $260 billion — the microbes break down radioactive elements into insoluble forms, making them less likely to leak into aquifers and streams.