Let Them Eat Waste

“Let Them Eat Waste: The Microbes Helping to Clean Up Fukushima”

Article by Zaria Gorvett. June 2015.

Important Points:

  • Japan has to find long-term storage for 20,000 tons of nuclear waste.
  • 300 tons of radioactive material leaks into groundwater every day.
  • The waste generated by nuclear power stations is a potent blend of radioactive uranium and its byproducts: Strontium-90, Iodine-131 and Cesium-137.
  • Radioactive elements eventually shed their extra neutrons over time, one by one until they turn into something more stable. ┬áThis decay takes between 300 (cesium-137) and 100,000 (uranium) years.
  • Shiraiwa and colleagues have found algae which can remove an array of radioactive waste products, including a species new to science: a unicellular algal strain known as nak9.