Gallery: Millions of Sunflowers Soak Up Nuclear Radiation in Fukushima


Nearly six months after the devastating tsunami hit Japan, communities are turning to mother nature to help restore theirs homes and hopes. Millions of sunflowers have been planted in radioactive areas to soak up toxins from the ground and brighten the hillside of Fukashima.

The nuclear fallout from the tsunami forced nearly 80,000 people to evacuate their homes, not knowing if or when they may return. The 30 miles surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been left contaminated and relatively barren. Even more disturbing, reports of radioactive rice, beef, vegetables, milk, seafood, and even tea have been found more than 60 miles away from the site, outside the mandatory evacuation zone.

Koyu Abe, chief monk at the Buddhist Joenji temple has been distributing sunflowers and their seeds to be planted all over Fukushima. The plants are known to soak up toxins from the soil, and patches of sunflowers are now growing between buildings, in backyards, alongside the nuclear plant, and anywhere else they will possibly fit. At least 8 million sunflowers and 200,000 other plants have been distributed by the Joenji Buddhist temple. “We plant sunflowers, field mustard, amaranthus and cockscomb, which are all believed to absorb radiation,” Abe says.

This is not the first time sunflowers have come to the rescue in radioactive situations. Many were planted around the Chernobyl site to extract cesium from nearby ponds. Residents of Fukushima today are also experimenting with planting sunflowers next to vegetables in their personal gardens, hoping they will suck up all the toxins and they can begin to grow again.

Via msnbc

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  1. Fred Zoepfl September 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    Sunflowers are not hyperaccumulator plants, so they are simply wasting their time and effort. No plant is going to hyperaccumulate fission product radioisotopes like Sr and Cs when common elements like Mg and Ca (for Sr) and Li, Na and K (for Cs) are readily available.

  2. olusoladedeji June 6, 2014 at 6:35 am

    This is a collective issue and the whole world must be concerned.

  3. Mark Ziegler March 10, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    The best way is to grow sunflowers hydroponically as the radiation is trapped in the fine roots and the roots removed after that and are properly disposed.

  4. hamako_ju July 6, 2012 at 5:52 am

    The children in Fukushima are in dire straits. Even according to TEPCO 4.3 times more cesium entered the atmosphere than in Chernobyl. How high the possibility is that large numbers of children will suffer health damage, you can see in the heart-wrenching video of genetics and radiation specialist Dr. Katsumi Furitsu’s speech on radiation in Berlin (introduction in German, then English). Overwhelmed by her emotions, she can barely speak for a minute.

    However, the Japanese government and local administration sit on their hands! Decisions just take too long. Their solution? Scraping off 3cm from the top soil in the school yards and ship it to … who knows where.

    The patience of the people in Tohoku starts running thin.

    Therefore, have local citizens and NGOs taken the fate of the land in their own hands, as reported here. They want to decontaminate Fukushima with the help of sunflowers and other plants that remove cesium from the soil. This is called Phytoremediation (from Ancient Greek (phyto), meaning “plant,” and Latin remedium, meaning “restoring balance”) and describes the treatment of contaminated soil through the use of plants that mitigate the environmental problem without the need to excavate the contaminant material and dispose of it elsewhere – which is currently the band-aid-solution of the government and TEPCO. If done on larger scale and the resulting biomass residue properly processed, this could be a good solution.

    As THeBIgKahuna correctly asks – what is happening with the biomass afterwards. Burning is a very bad idea, as the cesium evaporates and is blown into the air we breathe. However, they actually burn about 10%. The other 90% are just buried, which is also not environmentally sound.

    The whole activity shows the people’s power and our goal is now to help them with the next step – the safe and secure processing of the Cesium-laden biomass after harvestin, the unresolved problem, and proper storage of the small amount of radioactive residue. We have created a project that can show how the sound containment of cesium is possible and we need all the help we can get – we hope you “chip in”.

    Please review

    The Japanese industry showed no interest up to now, but if all the people concerned with the nuclear danger chip in some dollars, this project can become reality in short time. Somebody interested in getting involved?

    P.S. We have a proven track record for helping Tohoku. We collected Yen 30,000,000 ($360, 000) and placed since June last year 25 cars at the temporary homes for free use. This helps especially the children for their extra-curricular activities, like the kendo club of the Utatsu Chuugakko in Minami Sanriku and the seniors for hospital and shopping mall visits. Help us to make the phyto-remedition a success as well.

    Please distribute this comment through your social networks. We need to mobilize all concerned people to help with this project. Even if it is one dollar – a bucket of water also is filled with drops….

  5. TheBigKahuna November 14, 2011 at 9:12 am

    A very interesting article about sunflowers. How long is the crop time for a sunflower? How many rotations of sunflower crops will it take to clean up the soil? Will the soil ever be safe for human consumption of vegetables or rice? In refrence to above comment, what hapopens to the sunflower crop when harvested? Are the destroyed in an incinerator? It would be good to follow up on this story with facts and results. Thank You

  6. Wolf32 October 18, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I love sunflowers, but they don’t “soak up radiation.” When they take up radioactive materials, the radiation doesn’t disappear. If the sunflowers are composted (or their seeds are eaten) the radiation returns to the ecosystem. They need to be harvested and disposed of.

    (This is different from the use of plants to absorb organic toxins such as hydrocarbons. In those cases, the plants may absorb and break down the compounds, rendering them nontoxic. But they can’t make radiation go away.)

    This use of plants (“phytoremediation”) is useful and potentially beautiful, but you gotta know what you’re doing.

  7. iglal August 23, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Japan, excellent in planning and implementation

  8. kalysosmonov August 23, 2011 at 2:13 am

    …brighten the hillside of FukUshima.

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