Microalgae and aquatic plants can help to decrease radiopollution in the Fukushima area

Jan 09, 2014
Microalgae and aquatic plants can help to decrease radiopollution in the Fukushima area

After a huge earthquake caused severe damage to the Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, Japanese plant scientists have been working to determine the impact of radioactive contamination on wild and cultivated plants. In a special issue of Springer's Journal of Plant Research, these experts examine the potential adverse effects of radioactivity on nature and society.

Of particular interest is an article focusing on the efforts of a research group led by Yoshihiro Shiraiwa of the University of Tsukuba. Seventeen microalgae, aquatic plants and algae that are able to efficiently remove , iodine and strontium from the environment were identified. The findings add to existing bioremedial options which could help to decrease radiopollution in the Fukushima area.

Such measures are of utmost importance, because a large quantity of radioactivity has been released into the atmosphere. At the same time, the volume of radio-polluted is increasing daily because of the continuous injection of cool water and the incurrent of underground water into the still defective reactor.

Because the plant strains identified are easy to harvest and dry, they could be potentially useful to recover radioactive cesium from a huge volume of radio-polluted water if cesium is dissolved in water.

Notably, a eustigmatophycean unicellular algal strain, nak 9, was found to be the most efficient in eliminating up to 90 percent of cesium without any special treatment needed. The researchers suspect the alga is able to do this by accumulating on its cell surface. Potentially, nak 9 could be used to decontaminate highly radio-polluted water stored in Fukushima's nuclear reactor building, or to reduce the volume of the radio-polluted water. The researchers noted, however, that further studies are needed on the mass cultivation and efficient coagulation and sedimentation of these algal strains before their findings can be put into practice.

"Biological concentration of radionuclides is an essential technology for bioremediation of radio-polluted soils and water," said lead researcher Yoshihiro Shiraiwa. "Therefore our results provide an important strategy for decreasing radiopollution in the Fukushima area."

Explore further: Four tonnes of radioactive water spilled in Fukushima

More information: Fukuda, S., Shiraiwa, Y., et al. (2013). Global searches for microalgae and aquatic plants that can eliminate radioactive cesium, iodine and strontium from the radio-polluted aquatic environment: a bioremediation strategy. Journal of Plant Research. DOI: 10.1007/s10265-013-0596-9

Related Stories

High cesium level found in fish by Fukushima plant

Mar 17, 2013

The Japanese utility that owns the tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant says it has detected a record 740,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in a fish caught close to the plant.

IAEA to advise Japan on Fukushima clean-up

Oct 14, 2013

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency met Japanese officials Monday as part of a mission to assess clean-up efforts at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Apr 18, 2014

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Apr 18, 2014

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.