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Common freshwater algae might hold a key to cleaning up after disasters such as Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident, scientists said yesterday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California.

The algae, called Closterium moniliferum, are members of the desmid order, known to microbiologists for their distinctive shapes, said Minna Krejci, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. But the crescent-shaped C. moniliferum caught Krejci's eye because of its unusual ability to remove strontium from water, depositing it in crystals that form in subcellular structures known as vacuoles — an knack that could include the radioactive isotope strontium-90.

The idea of using algae instead of human "liquidators" to sequester and concentrate radioactive material is intriguing.  You would still have to isolate that now radioactive algae, but it's better than using humans, and cheaper and more effective than using robots. To read the rest of the article, click here.
Category: Science