Microalgae May Help Clean Radioactive Pollution at Fukushima, Researchers Say

Tiny species could help resolve one of the largest environmental disasters.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials check a wall along the coastline at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan on Nov. 7, 2013. Scientists said that microalgae are helping remove radioactive pollution from the waters around the plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns after an earthquake in March 2011.
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Microscopic species could help clean up one of the world's biggest environmental disasters, researchers claim.

In an article published in the Journal for Plant Research this week, a team of Japanese scientists said that six strains of microalgae, along with certain types of aquatic plants and other algae, could help remove radioactive pollution from the waters around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, which suffered multiple meltdowns after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

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In particular, the strains absorb radioactive cesium, iodine and strontium, which make-up most of the radioactive pollution in the area, the study said. The findings, researchers added, may ultimately help workers develop more methods for mopping up the area around Fukushima.

"Our results provide an important strategy for decreasing radiopollution in Fukushima area," the team wrote. "An urgent risk has arisen due to biological intake and subsequent food web contamination in the ecosystem."

Japan's Ministry of Energy has estimated that cleanup around the plant will cost about $35 billion. Initially slated to be completed in March, the timeline was pushed back in December to 2017, the Japan Times reported.

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