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.
A research group led by Yoshihiro Shiraiwa of the University of Tsukuba identified seventeen microalgae, aquatic plants and algae that are able to efficiently remove radioactive cesium, iodine and strontium from the environment.
The findings add to existing bioremedial options which could help to decrease radiopollution in the Fukushima area.
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 study was published in the Journal of Plant Research.