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Paul Stamets On Radiation Contamination Around Fukushima

*This article is crossposted from hopedance.org*

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.  

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

Paul Stamets

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16 responses

  1. CJ

    Super!~ Glad to see this guy getting a little plug, and find his response for myself as well:)

    April 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm

  2. From someone who studies radiation for a living and has all their life…

    “It’s a mixture of good and bad ideas. The main thing is that his idea of
    decontamination by bioconcentration (which quite a few people are working on
    with many hazardous materials) is much more suited to an area with heavy
    contamination, which is probably not going to be the case with the exclusion
    area around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. This would have been a very good
    experiment to carry out around Chernobyl. Actually, there are probably
    still areas around Chernobyl where this experiment could be performed. The
    area around the plant in Japan is not likely to end up contaminated enough
    (except for isolated hot spots which will have to be found and cleaned up)
    to prevent people from moving back in in six months or a year (it’s probably
    going to take that long to secure the damaged reactors, and you wouldn’t
    want large numbers of people moving back in close to the plant before that).”

    April 3, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    • whiney

      The above comment was written 12 days ago, and the severity of the disaster has been upgraded. I wonder if his/her assessment of contamination levels has changed as the event has progressed.
      Anyway, I really just wanted to write and say that just because you are a punk rock site doesn’t mean you have to print your articles white on black. This is very annoying to my eyes. I didn’t read the main article and don’t plan to because it is too abrasive. I did get sucked into reading the comment, probably because the lines had more space, but it is my general policy to immediately exit a website when I see this poor design choice. I am just writing this to be nice, instead of ignoring you completely.

      April 15, 2011 at 5:26 am

      • Hi Whiney,

        I @gaiapunk the editor appreciate all the good design feedback! Thank you, I agree white on black isn’t working and will try to change it to light blue on black with green links if possible. We welcome participation and contribution here at PRP-ezine.

        April 15, 2011 at 5:37 am

    • Excellent blog and solutions!

      > moving back in in six months or a year

      I’m reading this 7 months later. People could move back in 6 months if and only if the emissions stopped in April (when you wrote this) *and* the radioactive elements had a half-life of, say, 3 months. However, clearly there is no technology to stop the emissions or contain the melted-out cores yet and the elements have half-lives of decades or millennia, therefore …. I vote for the ‘shrooms.

      October 9, 2011 at 6:03 am

  3. G. Davis

    RE: the page colors. I agree, impossible for old eyes to read, but fortunately I have choice of “page style” in browser which changes pages to blue background and black print ( but renders pics and ads invisible).
    light blue on black would be difficult to see, for some, but black/dark blue on med. blue is good on the eyes.

    I like the mushroom idea also..:)

    April 15, 2011 at 9:05 am

  4. Pingback: Paul Stametz (the Mushroom Man) on Nuclear Remediation at Fukushima | Exopermaculture

  5. Pingback: Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Keeps Going | Celebs, News and Gossips

  6. What effect is the fallout from Japan having on our mushrooms here on the west coast of the U.S.? Are you testing for radiation? Is it safe to eat mushrooms here–Califronia/Oregon etc. ?

    July 11, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    • No, I’m not testing for radiation and I’m not sure who is. Most of the radiation from Fukushima has left the plant in the form of contaminated water which has huge impact for fish, whales, and seals, but likely won’t impact mushrooms here in the NW, now that being said nobody is testing so I can’t say that with much certainty.

      July 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm

  7. Deb

    Just wanted to make you aware of a radiation monitoring forum at http://www.enenews.com where folks with their own radiation detectors are sharing results of what they’re finding.

    October 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm

  8. Elijah

    Doodski,
    a brainy bunch over at enenews.com mentioned this site,
    speaking about the remediation plan to concentrate cesium 137,
    at least…
    Have you come up with new thoughts, or fled the NW ecotopia now,
    or….?
    So anyway, yeah…I oughta shroom up for Yahshua.
    Moses had his Eyes opened. HalleluYah!

    October 7, 2011 at 12:50 am

  9. shroomsNQ

    Paul is one of the people in the world putting the pieces in the puzzle for a better world.
    Aside from the shroom recovery plan.
    This is a great opportunity to create a permaculture community garden in all major towns and cities in Japan that have been affected/ decimated by the 2011 Tsunami.
    They could use people in the Japan WOOF group along with locals and permaculture groups internationally.
    Im not sure how to pull it of logistically, I was just putting it out there after watching the year after footage on the box today.

    March 11, 2012 at 12:05 am

  10. Pingback: Garden Contamination and Mushrooms

  11. Rumors of mushroom testing around Whatcom County, Washington, as well as the Cascades. The extent of the Cascades, I don’t know.
    Heard on the radio July 1 or 2, 2012.

    Happy 4th~

    July 4, 2012 at 12:32 pm

  12. smdahl

    University of California, Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering:”Strawberries, mushrooms with Cesium-137 found in Northern California; 5 of 6 items in food chain sampling test have radioactive particles”
    http://tinyurl.com/3wxpvmh

    September 12, 2012 at 11:03 pm

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