Radiation loving algae comes to Japan’s rescue

Japan’s Fukushima disaster is spawning billions of green, slimy photosynthetic organisms throughout its countryside – algae that is. Government grants are financing research into using algae harvesting technology as a new approach to radiation remediation.

I met with Riggs Eckelberry, president & CEO of California-based start-up OriginOil today. Eckelberry said that company, which makes solutions for renewable energy and treating wastewater, was selected by the Research Institute of Tsukuba Bio-tech to build up to 100 algae production sites in Japan via government financing.

Algae are capable of absorbing radioactive isotopes such as cesium, which were released in vast quantities during the nuclear disaster. Aerial contamination was widespread with cesium levels peaking at 50 million times normal levels, becoming the largest accidental release of radiation into the ocean in history. While the ocean took the brunt of the radiation, fallout fouled agricultural crops as well as beef and fish. The potential impact on human health is evident, and is being dealt with through both traditional and nontraditional means.

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