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: Water decontamination system in trouble at Japan's 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

Is fleet diversity key to sustainable fisheries?

6 hours ago

Concern about fisheries is widespread around the world. Over the past several decades, a robust discussion has taken place concerning how to manage fisheries better to benefit ecosystems and humans. Much of the discussion ...

Strange, fanged deer persists in Afghanistan

7 hours ago

More than 60 years after its last confirmed sighting, a strange deer with vampire-like fangs still persists in the rugged forested slopes of northeast Afghanistan according to a research team led by the Wildlife ...

Captive rhinos exposed to urban rumbles

8 hours ago

The soundtrack to a wild rhinoceros's life is wind passing through the savannah grass, birds chirping, and distant animals moving across the plains. But a rhinoceros in a zoo listens to children screaming, cars passing, and ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.