Hot Spot

Fukushima Sows Sunflowers
to Help Ward Off Radioactivity

Who said that we never talk about flowers? When the earthquake and following tsunami hit Japan, in March, we all feared for the worst. The cores of the aging nuclear plants near the city of Fukushima all but melted completely down, and a still unknown amount of radioactivity was released into the surrounding air and sea water.
In fact, no one knows for sure the extent of the disaster and the impact it will still cause going forward. Plant officials have been notoriously reticent about the damage, which doesn’t mean that the good people of Japan won’t overcome yet another man-made tragedy.
In the meantime, studies have been measuring radiation levelsin several parts of the city. None has been higher than at a 6,000-square-meter plaza, where every spring local residents and tourists used to come to see the cherry trees blossom.
Located on a hillside about one kilometer away from government offices, it’s now considered a restricted “hot spot,” because of the radioactive-contaminated surface soil.
This week, city officials sowed some 10,000 sunflower seeds at the plaza, because research has shown that the plant adapts well to high levels of toxins and even radioactive isotopes, sequestering them in disposable parts like stems and leaves.
They will become heavily radioactive, though, and will still need to be harvested, reduced, and disposed of carefully to prevent further contamination. Also, much more will have to be done in the years ahead, so to assure nature will come back and take its course.
But at least for a while, the sunflowers will be a beautiful, radiant symbol of recovery and hope in the future, all along helping restoring what the human folly almost took away for good. For a moment in time, a yellow flower will help the Land of the Rising Sun to shine on again.

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