It’s no secret that cannabis has a variety of benefits and uses. Today, however, people are using hemp for one surprising use: to clean up radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.
Radiation from the disaster has purportedly reached its highest levels since the 2011 meltdown. The facility’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) cited atmospheric readings as high as 530 sieverts an hour inside one containment vessel. Experts describe the recent readings as “unimaginable”.
To put that number in perspective, a single dose of one Sievert can cause radiation sickness and nausea. A dose of 5 sieverts kills half the population with a month. A dose of 10 sieverts is fatal within weeks.
All of this frightening information has sent people scrambling for a way to avoid radiation.
The process of using plants to clean polluted soil is called phytoremediation. Surprisingly, two of the most common plants used for phytoremediation are mustard plants. Today, however, a growing amount of research shows that hemp is also particularly effective at cleansing soil.
Hemp has shown promise due to its hardiness to toxins. It can grow in soils where other plants cannot. Hemp also has a fast growth rate.
Because of all of these benefits, hemp is being proposed as a way to clean up the soil surrounding the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Hemp has Previously Been Used to Remediate Soil Around Chernobyl
This isn’t the first time hemp has been linked to nuclear remediation: Ukrainian agricultural organizations experimented with hemp in the late 1990s as a way to remediate the soil near the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. To this day, the majority of agricultural land surrounding the area is totally unusable due to the presence of radiation and heavy metals caused by the 1986 meltdown.
Researchers from Belarus repeated the experiment in 2009 by attempting to grow hemp in the areas around Chernobyl.
In that study, researchers noticed that hemp had one unique benefit over other phytoremediation plants: after growing hemp, it can be used to produce biofuel. The Belarusian researchers noted that the crop could have two major benefits: it could clean the soil, then enjoy a second use as a source of fuel after it removes toxins from the ground.
Hemp Production Could Clean Up Soils Around the World
The Fukushima nuclear meltdown of 2011 sent radiation around the world. Today, radiation levels are slightly higher along the west coast of Canada, the United States, and Mexico because of the nuclear disaster from 2011.
Some research has shown that soil along the west coast now has higher levels of radioactive emissions and toxic metals, including iodine, cesium-137, strontium-90, and plutonium. In Japan, these toxic metals have been found in plants and animals as well as in the soil.
A freelance researcher in the Netherlands named Seshata, who specializes in writing about the benefits of cannabis, recently cited several studies that show hemp can be extremely effective at absorbing toxins – particularly cadmium and heavy metals. She noted, however, that the illegality of hemp in the United States severely limits the plant’s potential in America:
“As a proven, valuable tool in the fight to repair human-inflicted damage to our soils and ecosystems, hemp could potentially benefit hundreds of thousands of sites across the globe—it is estimated that in the USA alone there are 30,000 sites requiring remediation. As is so often the case, US restrictions on hemp cultivation preclude any large-scale operations from being implemented, and the contaminated sites are largely left unremediated, through lack of both funding and interest on the part of the government.”
Today, hemp distributers in the United States typically either buy hemp from Europe or Canada, where hemp cultivation is legal. Of course, that means Americans miss out on the benefits of actually growing hemp.
Could hemp be the secret behind cleaning up nuclear radiation in Fukushima and around the world? A growing amount of research shows that hemp can be a powerful phytoremediation tool. It’s yet another surprising benefit linked to cannabis.