Since there are still many nuclear plants that are operating almost anywhere in the world, to think that the event may not happen again in the future seems to be impossible, unless all people around the world united and decided to stop all nuclear plants from operating.
However looking into benefit of the economic potential of having cheap electricity from nuclear plant as well as already being operated very long time it’s very difficult to see those plants shall be closed in short time.
It is quite difficult for us to think how to prevent it from happening again, however to think how to prevent it from spread over to our home or our place of living we can do it naturally by having more plants surround our area which could absorb the nuclear radiation.
Using Sunflower in Chernobyl Nuclear Tragedy
The secret is the root structure of the sunflower plants which is so dense and strong, thus able to extract heavy metals such as arsenic and lead. Even the radioactive element can also be absorbed, including uranium and stronium-90 that can cause genetic mutations in humans.
The roots of the sunflower cultivar (Helianthus annuus L.), when submerged in water, quickly accumulate heavy metals and radionuclides. Thus with the help of the plants, scientists have been able to start reclaiming the soil and water surrounding Chernobyl. Scientists have found that sunflowers can remove radionuclides from the soil as well as water, when grown hydroponically. These sunflowers can reduce the amount of uranium concentrations in the water by up to 95%. The sunflowers are then harvested and the radioactive material within the plant is disposed of properly.
The Chernobyl Nuclear Story
On the morning of April 26, 1986, a small town in the former Soviet Union was the site of a nuclear explosion that literally shook the earth. The historic accident at Chernobyl Nuclear Plant Reactor 4 in the Ukraine caused severe radioactive contamination. Families within a 30-km zone of the power plant were evacuated, and in the months that followed, extensive contamination was discovered in areas up to 100 km from the site. Scientists are hopeful that plants may play a key role in cleaning up some of the contamination.
In 1989, three years after the explosion, the Soviet government asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assess the radiological and health situation in the area surrounding the power plant.
Among the most significant findings were radioactive emissions and toxic metals–including iodine, cesium-137, strontium, and plutonium–concentrated in the soil, plants, and animals. Such substances are potentially harmful to human health. For example, although iodine tends to disappear within a few weeks of exposure, it can be inhaled or ingested and then accumulated in the thyroid gland, where it delivers high doses of radiation as it decays. Since 1991, the Canadian Nuclear Association has noted a marked increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer in the area surrounding the nuclear accident. Cesium-137, radioactive cesium with a mass number of 137, can enter the food chain and deliver an internal dose of radiation before it is eliminated metabolically.
Apparently these toxic substances entered the food chain via grazers, such as cows and other livestock, that fed on plants grown in contaminated soils. The toxins then accumulated and concentrated in the meat and milk products eventually consumed by humans. Additionally, wild foods, such as berries and mushrooms, are expected to continue showing elevated cesium levels over the next few decades.
To prevent further spread of these toxins, it was determined that livestock should be allowed to feed only on uncontaminated plants and on plants not tending to accumulate toxic metals within their tissues. Then a soil cleanup method was employed using green plants to remove toxins from the soil. This technique is phytoremediation, a term coined by Dr. Ilya Raskin of Rutgers University’s Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment, who was a member of the original task force sent by the IAEA to examine food safety at the Chernobyl site. Phytoremediation is a process that takes advantage of the fact that green plants can extract and concentrate certain elements within their ecosystem. For example, some plants can grow in metal-laden soils, extract certain metals through their root systems, and accumulate them in their tissues without being damaged. In this way, pollutants are either removed from the soil and groundwater or rendered harmless.
In February 1996, Phytotech, Inc., a Princeton, NJ-based company, reported that it had developed transgenic strains of sunflowers, Helianthus sp., that could remove as much as 95% of toxic contaminants in as little as 24 hours. Subsequently, Helianthus was planted on a styrofoam raft at one end of a contaminated pond near Chernobyl, and in twelve days the cesium concentrations within its roots were reportedly 8,000 times that of the water, while the strontium concentrations were 2,000 times that of the water. Helianthus is in the composite, or Asteraceae, family and has edible seeds. It also produces an oil that is used for cooking, in margarine, and as a paint additive. H. tuberosus was used by Native Americans as a carbohydrate source for diabetics.
Using Sunflower in Jadugoda Uranium Mine, India
Another evidence of using sunflower to reduce the radioactive is in India. Jadugoda in Singhbhum district in Jharkhand State of Eastern India is the first uranium mining in India. Exposure to nuclear radiation is affecting the health of miners and villagers at Jadugoda. According to different N.G.Os working among the tribal peoples of Singhbhum said the radiation may not bring sudden dramatic illness but slowly undermines the health of the people living in the surrounding villages.
The diseases include blood in cough, ulcer, swelling of bone joints, asthma, eye problems, etc. The people in the Jadugoda area are affected not only by radiation from tailing dams but also by lack of safety at the mines. Fatigue, lack of appetite, respiratory ailments are wide spread. Increases in miscarriages, impotency, infant mortality, down’s syndrome, skeletal deformities and different skin diseases, children with big heads, thalassemia have been reported. The contamination of soil and ground water with radionuclides poses a serious problem in areas affected by the precipitation and use of nuclear materials such as uranium, tritium, cesium, strontium, technetium and plutonium.
A need for a cost effective and environmentally safe procedure to reclaim such lands has become a main priority. Large efforts have been conducted to reclaim contaminated lands. In recent years use of plants to remove radionuclides from the soils and the water (Phytoremediation) are gaining importance.
Phytoremediation is the use of certain plants to withdrawal chemicals, compounds, and heavy metals from the soil. Knowledge of these plants, and specifically their biology, has allowed for innovative techniques to reclaim contaminated soil sites. Not all plants have the same capability to withdrawal such things as nickel, lead, cadmium, and arsenic. However, some plants can tolerate high levels of heavy metals and other toxic chemicals. These plants are referred to as hyper accumulators. The best plants used in phytoremediation are those plants that have hay crop characteristics that are tall, high yielding, fast growing, and easy to harvest.
Not only do these plants uptake the unwanted material, but such plants also limit the movement of materials within the soil, and in some cases those materials can then be extracted from the plant and reused. In Jadugoda where the peoples are most affected with radiation, growing sunflower can be seen as one of the important methods to minimize toxic metals from the water and soil.
In order to grow well, sunflowers need full sun. Jharkhand State receives sufficient sun rays throughout the year. Seeing the favorable climatic conditions, local people and NGOs must be motivated to go for sunflower plantation in the affected areas.
Other Benefits of Sunflower
Sunflower also could be used for treating wounds and infections. Fresh leaves are crushed together to form a sunflower seed tapel or pasta. Tapel was then used to compress the wound or ulcer to the wound and pasta are both dry.
The most widely used product for health is the sunflower oil, which is believed to overcome many chronic diseases including heart disease and neurological disorders. Because of the popularity, this oil is sold in supplement form is ready to drink.
Besides containing a single chain unsaturated oils are good for the heart, this oil also contains vitamin E, which serves as an antidote to free radicals. The content is useful for skin care because it can resist the effects of aging such as wrinkles and dull skin. That is all for sunflower and we go for the next plant which could be used to prevent nuclear radiations.