Biodiversity / Food / Water

August 31, 2011


Sunflower Project to Clean Up Radioactive Soil in Fukushima

Keywords: Chemicals Ecosystems / Biodiversity University / Research institute 

Copyright Operation Himawari

A project to clean up contaminated soil using sunflowers will be launched in areas close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, it was announced by Masamichi Yamashita, a professor-emeritus of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and his colleagues in April 2011. The project aims to remove radioactive cesium from contaminated land by growing sunflowers, which take radioactive cesium from the contaminated land by growing sunflowers, which take radioactive cesium from the soil. The harvested plants will be processed by composting bacteria to reduce their volume for final safe storage. The project is also expected to help suppress the amount of aerial contaminated dust by covering plants on land.

Sunflowers and rapeseed were planted in the area near the Chernobyl power plant after the nuclear accident in 1986 for the same purpose. These plants show a high capacity to take radioactive cesium from contaminated soil.

Radioactive cesium has chemical properties similar to potassium, which is a major element of fertilizer. The less feeding potassium fertilizers, the more sunflowers take cesium.

The harvested sunflowers body will be processed by the hyperthermophilic aerobic composting bacteria, and converted to water, carbon-dioxide, and minerals such as cesium in a short time. The hyperthermophilic aerobic composting bacteria system is most active at a high temperature around 100 degrees Celsius. This method will significantly reduce the volume of harvested plant body. In case composted products would be found categorized to low level nuclear waste, they will be safely confined and stored safely under the thick shield layer until they become safe.

Posted: 2011/08/31 06:00:15 AM