Scientist: Algae species can absorb radioactivity

October 20, 2011

By FUMIKAZU ASAI / Senior Staff Writer

A species of green algae, only 0.01 millimeter in size, can effectively eliminate radioactive cesium and strontium, according to researchers at the University of Yamanashi and Toho University.

The algae was discovered five years ago by Yasuhiro Yukawa, president of Japan Biomass Corp., a venture business based in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, in a waste fluid treatment facility at a plating plant. The single-celled algae species with a large chlorophyll content was identified as a newly discovered species and named "parachlorella sp. binos."

Katzuhiko Itoh, a project director at the Kitasato Institute, suggested that the algae could be used to decontaminate radioactivity because they have active vital processes and can ingest a variety of substances.

The algae will be used to wash soil and be pasted on building walls and road surfaces like paint in a decontamination experiment scheduled for November in a residential quarter in Date, Fukushima Prefecture.

When Hiroki Shimura, a research associate at the University of Yamanashi's Faculty of Medicine, and coworkers conducted an experiment using radioactive water sampled in Fukushima Prefecture, the algae removed 80 percent of radioactive strontium and 40 percent of cesium in 10 minutes. It is thought that the algae's secretions, which stick to their cell walls, absorb and retain the radioactive substances.

Yukawa said the binos algae can easily be multiplied in a culture because their cells divide fast. They may also help to lessen the amount of post-decontamination waste because the algae lose about 90 percent in weight when dried. Yukawa hopes to cooperate with other enterprises in the future to help treat radioactive water and decontaminate farmland and residential quarters using the algae.

November's experiment is meant to find out if the algae can be used to decontaminate building walls and road surfaces by applying the algae like paint and scraping them off after they have absorbed the radioactive material and dried off.

By FUMIKAZU ASAI / Senior Staff Writer
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Parachlorella sp. binos, a new-found species of green algae, in granulated form (Fumikazu Asai)

Parachlorella sp. binos, a new-found species of green algae, in granulated form (Fumikazu Asai)

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  • Parachlorella sp. binos, a new-found species of green algae, in granulated form (Fumikazu Asai)

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