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About Springer - Media - Springer Select | Microalgae and aquatic plants can help to decrease radiopollution in the Fukushima area

Tokyo / New York / Heidelberg, 9 January 2014

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

Springer’s Journal of Plant Research presents the results of a two-year investigation in a special issue

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 radioactive cesium, 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 water 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 cesium 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.”
Other articles in the special issue discuss, for example, radioactive pollution and radionuclides in wild plants, soil-to-plant transfer factors, and decontamination from farmlands by plants. The Journal of Plant Research is the official journal of the Botanical Society of Japan.
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
Selected articles from the special issue are freely available online at http://rd.springer.com/journal/10265/127/1/page/1
The full issue in print or electronic form is available to journalists on request.


Cover photos:  

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (F1NPP), destroyed by explosions after the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and some of the activities in the Fukushima area reported in the current JPR Symposium. Center: F1NPP, photo courtesy of Airphoto Service Co. (Niigata, Japan). Other photos: top two: Planting and growth of more than a hundred rice varieties (photos by T. Fujiwara); second from top: Testing of phytoremediation by agricultural and horticultural crops (photo by D. Kobayashi); third and fourth from top: Planting and growth of rice using different fertilizers (photos by H. Sekimoto); lower left two: Collection of macro algae from destroyed Fukushima seashore (photos by H. Kawai); lower second from right: Testing of phytoremediation by pasture grasses (main photo by I. Terashima; inset by H. Fukuda); lower far right: Autoradiogram of a Sasa leaf polluted by fallout from F1NPP (photo by T. Mimura).