The devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March caused a nuclear disaster that left high quantities of radioactive cesium and other toxins in the soil in around the Fukushima prefecture. But a recent campaign has been launched by civil servants and independent entrepreneurs who are focusing their efforts on the use of sunflowers to clean contaminants from the fallout zone.
Project leader Shinji Handa explains the long term plan. Sunflower seeds will be sold to citizens and volunteers who will plant them in as many places as possible around the stricken area next year. The plants and seeds that grow from the contaminated soil will be gathered and disposed of safely, but meanwhile, they will create a brilliant yellow landscape, a kind of spectacle of hope and healing that will ideally be visible from space. In addition to leaving 23,000 people dead or missing, the earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima power plant, which has been leaking radioactive material for several months.
But sunflowers represent a hopeful beacon and a symbol of reconstruction, and as they grow, they help to absorb cesium from the soil. Sunflowers and plants with similar biology were also used in radioactive cleanup efforts after the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine.
So far, more than 10,000 packets of sunflower seeds have been sold to approximately 30,000 people for about $5.70 each. One of the major patrons of the sunflower project has been the city of Yokohama, which will be growing sunflowers in 200 of its parks. Selling the seeds to volunteers who will then take responsibility for planting them provides better opportunities for community involvement than simply accepting donations. (NaturalNews)
A project using sunflowers to absorb widespread radiation from Fukushima Prefecture’s crisis-hit nuclear plant has taken off in Japan and organizers hope that it will spur interaction between people in the prefecture and other areas.
Project organizers have sent sunflower seeds to some 13,000 locations around the country, where the flowers are now in bloom. Sunflowers are said to absorb radiation, and when the seeds from the grown flowers are sent back to Fukushima, they will be planted next year to absorb more radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and improve soil quality. Organizers hope the project will spur deeper connections between people in Fukushima and the rest of the country.
The project was launched in March, with a group of 10 Iwate Prefecture business managers at the helm. When they began recruiting people to raise the sunflowers in late April, they were swamped with applicants. They ended up sending seeds to people in every other prefecture in the country, and they are now recruiting people within Fukushima to plant the new seeds next summer.
For work such as putting the seeds into bags, the organizers contacted a facility providing jobs for the mentally disabled in Nihonmatsu, which readily accepted. After new seeds are harvested, they can be sent back via post, but project organizers hope that some will bring the seeds in person and interact with the people of Fukushima. (MyWeatherTech)
~Don’t forget Fukushima. Let’s create a bond between the people all over Japan and the people in Fukushima~ It is a great sadness that radiation caused by a nuclear plant accident has polluted Fukushima prefecture. People in Fukushima have suffered from earthquake, Tsunami, and nuclear power plant accident. Fukushima Sunflower Foster Parent Project has kicked off in order to plant sunflowers in soil in Fukushima as a symbol of the rebuilding of Fukushima. It has been proven that sunflowers can absorb radiation from soil. We need “foster parents of sunflowers” to raise sunflowers, harvest the seeds in autumn and send them to Fukushima. This project also creates job for disabled people and for people who lost their jobs due to this big disaster in Fukushima. (SunFlower Fukushima)
It has been proven that some plants have an ability of absorbing radiation with its root from soil. Sunflowers, especially, show a high rate of absorption. It is said that Sunflowers can remove 95% of the radiation in soil in 20 days. Normally, it would take about 30 years until the radiation level was reduced to a safe level.
The benefit is evidenced in the tragedy at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor leak in 1986. When most of the water in the region of radioactive contamination, planting sunflowers on a floating raft capable of reducing the impact of radiation in waters up to 95 percent.
The secret is the root structure is so dense and strong, so able to extract heavy metals such as arsenic and lead. Even the radioactive element can also be absorbed, including uranium and stronium-90 that can cause genetic mutations in humans.
Since 1991, the Canadian Nuclear Association has noted a marked increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer in the area surrounding the nuclear accident. Cesium-137, radioactive cesium with a mass number of 137, can enter the food chain and deliver an internal dose of radiation before it is eliminated metabolically.
Apparently these toxic substances entered the food chain via grazers, such as cows and other livestock, that fed on plants grown in contaminated soils. The toxins then accumulated and concentrated in the meat and milk products eventually consumed by humans. Additionally, wild foods, such as berries and mushrooms, are expected to continue showing elevated cesium levels over the next few decades.
Phytoremediation is a process that takes advantage of the fact that green plants can extract and concentrate certain elements within their ecosystem. For example, some plants can grow in metal-laden soils, extract certain metals through their root systems, and accumulate them in their tissues without being damaged. In this way, pollutants are either removed from the soil and groundwater or rendered harmless.
Today, many researchers, institutes, and companies are funding scientific efforts to test different plants' effectiveness at removing a wide range of contaminants. In laboratory tests with metals loaded onto artificial soil (a mix of sand and vermiculite), Brassica juncea and Brassica carinata, two members of the mustard family, appeared to be the best at removing large quantities of chromium, lead, copper, and nickel. Researchers at the DuPont Company have found that corn, Zea mays, can take up incredibly high levels of lead. Applied Natural Sciences in Hamilton, Ohio, is taking a slightly different route by using trees to clean up deeper soils, a process they call "treemediation".
In February 1996, Phytotech, Inc., a Princeton, NJ-based company, reported that it had developed transgenic strains of sunflowers, Helianthus sp., that could remove as much as 95% of toxic contaminants in as little as 24 hours. Subsequently, Helianthus was planted on a styrofoam raft at one end of a contaminated pond near Chernobyl, and in twelve days the cesium concentrations within its roots were reportedly 8,000 times that of the water, while the strontium concentrations were 2,000 times that of the water. Helianthus is in the composite, or Asteraceae, family and has edible seeds. It also produces an oil that is used for cooking, in margarine, and as a paint additive. H. tuberosus was used by Native Americans as a carbohydrate source for diabetics. (MHHE)
The contamination of soil and ground water with radionuclides poses a serious problem in areas affected by the precipitation and use of nuclear materials such as uranium, tritium, cesium, strontium, technetium and plutonium.
A need for a cost effective and environmentally safe procedure to reclaim such lands have become a main priority. Large efforts have been conducted to reclaim contaminated lands. In recent years use of plants to remove radionuclides from the soils and the water (Phytoremediation) are gaining importance.
Phytoremediation is the use of certain plants to withdrawal chemicals, compounds, and heavy metals from the soil. Knowledge of these plants, and specifically their biology, has allowed for innovative techniques to reclaim contaminated soil sites. Not all plants have the same capability to withdrawal such things as nickel, lead, cadmium, and arsenic. However, some plants can tolerate high levels of heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. These plants are referred to as hyper accumulators. The best plants used in phytoremediation are those plants that have hay crop characteristics that are tall, high yielding, fast growing, and easy to harvest.
Not only do these plants uptake the unwanted material, but such plants also limit the movement of materials within the soil, and in some cases those materials can then be extracted from the plant and reused.
With the help of plants, scientists have been able to start reclaiming the soil and water surrounding Chernobyl Russia. Scientists have found that sunflowers can remove radionuclides from the soil as well as water, when grown hydroponically. These sunflowers can reduce the amount of uranium concentrations in the water by up to 95%. The sunflowers are then harvested and the radioactive material within the plant is disposed of properly.
The tests used sunflower plants to pull radionuclides from a pond contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl accident. According to scientists, these tests demonstrate that rhizofiltration is a practical way to treat radionuclides, including uranium, cesium, and strontium found in groundwanter. The roots of the Sunflower cultivar (Helianthus annuus L.), when submerged in water, quickly accumulate heavy metals and radionuclides. (EarthDayNetwork)