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How Mushrooms Can Clean Up Radioactive Contamination - An 8 Step Plan

Paul Stamets |
Saturday, 16th April 2011

Paul Stamets, the master of mycorrhiza, describes how to isolate the radioactive material at Fukushima, specifically Cesium 137, and reduce its impact on the surrounding land and its wildlife and people.

Gomphidius glutinosus

 Many people have written me and asked more or less the same question: "What would you do to help heal the Japanese landscape around the failing nuclear reactors?"

The enormity and unprecedented nature of this combined natural and human-made disaster will require a massive and completely novel approach to management and remediation. And with this comes a never before seen opportunity for collaboration, research and wisdom.

The nuclear fallout will make continued human habitation in close proximity to the reactors untenable. The earthquake and tsunami created enormous debris fields near the nuclear reactors. Since much of this debris is wood, and many fungi useful in mycoremediation are wood decomposers and build the foundation of forest ecosystems, I have the following suggestions:

1. Evacuate the region around the reactors.

2. Establish a high-level, diversified remediation team including foresters, mycologists, nuclear and radiation experts, government officials, and citizens.

3. Establish a fenced off Nuclear Forest Recovery Zone.

4. Chip the wood debris from the destroyed buildings and trees and spread throughout areas suffering from high levels of radioactive contamination.

5. Mulch the landscape with the chipped wood debris to a minimum depth of 12-24 inches.

6. Plant native deciduous and conifer trees, along with hyper-accumulating mycorrhizal mushrooms, particularly Gomphidius glutinosus, Craterellus tubaeformis, and Laccaria amethystina (all native to pines). G. glutinosus has been reported to absorb – via the mycelium – and concentrate radioactive Cesium 137 more than 10,000-fold over ambient background levels. Many other mycorrhizal mushroom species also hyper-accumulate.

7. Wait until mushrooms form and then harvest them under Radioactive HAZMAT protocols.

8. Continuously remove the mushrooms, which have now concentrated the radioactivity, particularly Cesium 137, to an incinerator. Burning the mushroom will result in radioactive ash. This ash can be further refined and the resulting concentrates vitrified (placed into glass) or stored using other state-of-the-art storage technologies.

By sampling other mushroom-forming fungi for their selective ability to hyper-accumulate radioactivity, we can learn a great deal while helping the ecosystem recover. Not only will some mushroom species hyper-accumulate radioactive compounds, but research has also shown that some mycorrhizal fungi bind and sequester radioactive elements so they remain immobilized for extended periods of time. Surprisingly, we learned from the Chernobyl disaster that many species of melanin-producing fungi have their growth stimulated by radiation.

The knowledge gained through this collaborative process would not only benefit the areas affected by the current crisis, but would also help with preparedness and future remediation responses.

How long would this remediation effort take? I have no clear idea but suggest this may require decades. However, a forested national park could emerge –The Nuclear Forest Recovery Zone – and eventually benefit future generations with its many ecological and cultural attributes.

I do not know of any other practical remedy. I do know that we have an unprecedented opportunity to work together toward solutions that make sense. 

Mycellium RunningMycellium Running

For references consult my latest book, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley or www.fungi.com). Click this link to see a video too! Utilizing search engines of the scientific literature will also reveal more corroborative references.

Paul Stamets 

*This article is crossposted from hopedance.org* 

Help spread the permaculture word...

harry_w |
Monday, April 18, 2011 - 12:47am

I was pointed in Paul Stamets' direction from a discussion on boars eating radioactive truffles and mushrooms in southern Germany, where Chernobyl fallout landed.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/01/radioactive-boars-mushrooms-che...

I think it's a fascinating proposition and potentially invaluable for radiation decontamination.

The other posting has a select bibliography attached. http://hopedance.org/other-news/1971-myco-remediation-of-the-japanese-la...

Piedro |
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 8:30pm

THIS IS FROM THE ORGANIZER OF THE FACEBOOK SITE "GOODNEWS FOR THEEARTH":

Robert Brothers: Ideas are good news, facts are better. The fact mentioned here is that "Gomphidius glutinosus has been reported to absorb – via the mycelium – and concentrate radioactive Cesium 137 more than 10,000-fold over ambient background levels. Many other mycorrhizal mushroom species also hyper-accumulate." The best news would be results of the use of these species, in terms of how long it takes for how many of them to absorb how much radiaation. Would anyone like to research this, using the sources that Stamets gives?

doronlevin |
Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 11:41pm

Information for landowners about recovering clean up costs for oil and gas company drilling wells, pipeline, pits and tanks.
http://law29.com/pages/practice-areas/consumer-business-issues/oilfield-...

Gunir |
Monday, September 3, 2012 - 11:13am

It has been reported to absorb – via the mycelium and concentrate radioactive Cesium of more than the required to -fold over the ambient background levels.
chiropractic marketing

Muna Lakhani |
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 2:01pm

Hi all
I would strongly suggest that the mushrooms NOT be burnt!v This step would release radiation into the air, and cause it to spread further, not the ideal! the only safe way to "manage" any radioactive material is to concentrate it (I agree with that part) then encapsulate it in ceramic, and store it above ground, and constantly monitor it - anything else is a deferred relase.... i.e. future impact...

Muna Lakhani |
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 - 2:02pm

Hi all
I would strongly suggest that the mushrooms NOT be burnt!v This step would release radiation into the air, and cause it to spread further, not the ideal! the only safe way to "manage" any radioactive material is to concentrate it (I agree with that part) then encapsulate it in ceramic, and store it above ground, and constantly monitor it - anything else is a deferred relase.... i.e. future impact...

Notright Inthehead |
Sunday, July 8, 2012 - 4:39am

I'm curious, could the contaminated metal and other non organic materials be cleansed in a similar fashion?

I've been a fan of Paul since I first saw his TED talk, "6 ways mushrooms can save the world", but this question just popped into my head as I was reading the above article.

mgeraudm |
Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 6:55pm

Isn't there a use of the radioactive subproduct, I mean, rather than being wasted ash?
My thought is, the mushrooms concentrate the radioactive particles suspended in the air, making that the only viable method of achieving that. So, once radioactive particles are captured, can't they be purified and used somehow insead of just confining them?

mheldt |
Friday, August 30, 2013 - 5:45pm

The burning of the mushrooms would not be in a typical incinerator. Instead it would be more like one used at the National Animal Disease Lab in Ames Iowa where infected experimental horses and animals are burned. The mushrooms would be burned in a fluidized bed and the gases and ash produced would be captured, processed, and filtered as well. Burning does not have to occur in something like a fireplace. Some materials can be burned in water under extremely high temperature and pressure. As long as the burning method is under extreme control and capture, burning is far better than letting it just blow in the wind.

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