“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,”
Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president
The earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, left in its wake 23,000 people dead or missing. But, the damage that occurred to the Fukushima power plant will continue to negatively impact the country and its people for a very long time. Its not getting better, in fact, the Fukushima power plant meltdown which began in March 2011 continues to this day. More than four years later, the resulting negative health consequences are only growing.
But something else is growing at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
Within weeks of the disaster, a program was launched by civil servants and independent entrepreneurs to plant sunflower seeds in and around the contaminated area. Soon the fallout zone was covered in bright cheerful sunflowers. Was this just a symbol of hope to the people of Japan and the world, or was there more to it than that?
These cheerful flowers covered an area so large that the sunny yellow patch could be seen from passenger airliners, and maybe even from the International Space Station on a cloudless day.
But, sunflowers have been touted to do more than just brighten up an area. The sunflower project was promised to save Japan and their people. It is said that sunflowers absorb large amounts of cesium from the soil.
A similar project was implemented in the radioactive cleanup of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine. This historic reference gave the Japanese people a string of hope to hang onto.
So far, more than 100,000 packets of sunflower seeds have been sold to approximately 30,000 people at the equivalent price of just under $6 each.
One of the major patrons of the sunflower project has been the city of Yokohama, which planted sunflowers in 200 of its parks.
Seeds were also sold to volunteers who took the responsibility for planting them in contaminated soil. This involvement of the Japanese public has given the people hope and a sense of pride by being part of a noble cause.
But, has this amazing claim been proven? Is this a scientific fact or has somebody pulled a fast one?
What were the results at the site of the Chernobyl disaster? To this day, the area around the Chernobyl power plant is fenced off and access to the site is prohibited, due to high levels of radiation still present.
Four years have passed since the Fukushima Sunflower project began, and the results are in. Sadly, sunflowers just don’t do the job. The roots of the sunflower grow too deep to absorb the cesium which is concentrated in the top 3-4 inches of soil.
The soil in the sunflower fields, when tested, showed a .05% reduction in the amount of active cesium. On the other hand, planting the area with shallow rooted grass, then scraping and removing the top 3-4 inches of soil was far and above more efficient. With this method, the amount of active cesium was reduced by 97%.
Somebody pulled off a huge hoax on an entire nation at a time when they needed real solutions. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been swindled from well-meaning Japanese citizens buying seeds and risking their health to plant them in contaminated soil?
As a symbol of hope for the “Land of the Rising Sun” the sunflower falls flat. The hope still lies in the stopping of the meltdown. To this day Fukushima continues to contaminate the air, water, and soil, not just in Japan, but to a lesser degree, throughout the entire planet.