Sunflowers in Fukushima Essay

1963 Words Jun 13th, 2013 8 Pages
Sunflowers in Fukushima

Fukushima, Japan, faced a terrible outlook as of March, 2011. After the devastation of an earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear power meltdown, the city was left with a huge cleanup not for the faint hearted with radioactive isotopes filling the air, water and earth beneath them. With terrible agricultural and medical consequences looming, scientists had to act fast and on a very large scale. Using lessons from Chernobyl, scientists have enlisted the assistance of sunflowers and their fast growing capabilities. Could sunflowers be the ray of hope for this country left devastated?

Sunflowers in Fukushima

How Fukushima became contaminated
Similar in severity to Chernobyl’s 1986 Nuclear Disaster, in March,
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It is also volatile when in contact with oxygen and water and will easily spread. In the human body, iodine is taken up by the thyroid and becomes concentrated. This can lead to thyroid cancer later in life. Children who are exposed to Iodine 131 are more likely than adults to get cancer later in life (UCSUSA, 2011).
Caesium 137 has a half-life of about 30 years, so will take more than a century to decay by a significant amount. Living organisms treat caesium as if it was potassium which is very dangerous as it becomes part of the fluid electrolytes and is eventually excreted. Caesium 137 is passed up the food chain from soil, into plants and eventually on to animals and humans. As Caesium 137 is a carcinogenic like Iodine 131, this can lead to many different types of cancer.
Sunflowers as a Solution
- Iodine, Caesium and Strontium
In the March 2011 nuclear meltdown, Fukushima Daiichi ejected two isotopes with a particular danger to humans – Caesium 137 and Iodine 131. Luckily Iodine 131 has a half life of eight days (EPA, 2012) meaning that Caesium 137 is the primary source of radioactivity in the area. Sunflowers have been used as a potential long-term solution in removing these dangerous isotopes from both contaminated water and soil in areas surrounding nuclear disasters including Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Chernobyl soil scientist, Michael Blaylock, explains that sunflowers effectively removed isotopes from water but soil proves to

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