On March 11, 2011, Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture was struck by one of the biggest disasters in recent history. A tsunami, caused by an earthquake in the Pacific, hit the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, triggering the meltdown of the nuclear reactors, which led to explosions and radioactive material being released into the atmosphere. In the following days, wind and rain carried the radioactive material inland. More than 25,000 hectares of farmland, in what used to be one of Japan’s most important agricultural regions, were contaminated. The official decontamination method removes the fertile topsoil and replaces it with infertile dirt from the mountains, which produces huge amount of radioactive waste: 16 million m2, stored all over the region. But most importantly: By removing the fertile soil, it makes farming impossible. So even though radiation decreases, the region remains abandoned, because without farming, rural Fukushima communities lose their livelihood.
Describe the creative idea (40% of vote)
Environmental technology specialists from METER, together with Dr. Masaru Mizoguchi from The University of Tokyo, fellow environmental scientists and the NPO Fukushima Saisei, have developed an innovative sustainable decontamination method for farming:
It removes the radioactive material from the soil, without removing the soil itself. The method can be easily applied by farmers themselves, because it uses only available resources. It enables farmers to grow perfectly safe rice on the fields inherited from their ancestors again. And because it removes only the radioactive particles instead of the whole topsoil, it reduces the amount of radioactive waste by 95% compared to the official method. By giving the farmers back their fields, they regain their livelihood. This revitalizes communities and business. The whole region can grow again.
Describe the final product (40% of vote)
The sustainable decontamination method for farming is not a typical product. Because it’s not a tangible product and doesn’t contain modern technology. Rather, it’s a scientific method, combining tools and processes known for centuries in a new way. To create impact bigger than that of most technological product innovations: Contribute to solving one of the biggest ecological disasters in recent history: The Fukushima nuclear disaster.
List the results (20% of vote)
The sustainable decontamination method removes 80% of the cesium in the soil with a single application.
It has been applied on many rice fields all over Fukushima Prefecture, by farmers themselves, using available resources.
The rice grown on the decontaminated fields is perfectly safe, more than 10 times below the limit of official tests for products from Fukushima Prefecture, which are the strictest radiation tests in the world. Compared with the official decontamination method, the application of the sustainable method reduces radioactive waste by 95%, prevented thousands of cubic meters of radioactive waste.
Fukushima farmers regain their livelihood, which brings back communities and economy. The method is being adopted by farmers and organizations in Fukushima and beyond.