Fukushima 1 Nuclear Plant, in Sendai, Japan, just after the earthquake of March 11, 2011

Fukushima 1 Nuclear Plant, in Sendai, Japan, just after the earthquake of March 11, 2011

AJapanese research group led by Yoshihiro Shiraiwa of the University of Tsukuba, working to decrease radiation pollution at Japan’s Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant, has identified 17 microalgae, aquatic plants and macroalgae that are able to efficiently remove radioactive cesium, iodine and strontium from the environment. The research findings were published in the Journal of Plant Research.

In the nearly three years since the huge earthquake caused severe damage to the power plant, the volume of radio-polluted water has increased daily because of the continuous injection of cool water and the incurrent of underground water into the still defective reactor.

As 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.