How Hemp Stopped Chernobyl

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As many of us know, in 1986, a Soviet nuclear power plant located in the Ukraine, exploded due to designer flaws. To this day, the Chernobyl power plant and its surrounding area are highly radioactive. However, what some people do not know, is how the Soviet administration at that time dealt with the spreading toxicity.

As the then USSR began assessing the damages caused by the Chernobyl disaster, they requested the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency to analyze the environment. Within the 18 mile contamination zone, theIAEA found high concentrations of noxious chemicals such as lead and plutonium, in the soil, and the tissue of plants and animals. Because of this a system known as phytoremediation was implemented in 1990 by the USSR.

Phytoremediation is the process of using certain plants to clean toxic soils, where these plants have the ability to gather the toxic chemicals, and convert them into energy. There are multiple species of plants that can partake in this process, however depending on the species of plant, the  chemicals it can convert varies. For example, the plant known as Indian mustard has been found to greatly reduce concentrations of mercury and selenium when implemented in the science of phytoremediation. In 1996, the Soviet administration commenced plantings of Sunflower to battle the high levels of lead, caesium, strontium, and plutonium, and then began planting Hemp, the male counterpart to Cannabis, in 1998. A researcher by the name of Slavik Dushenkov, who worked with an organisation who participated in the planting, said that “hemp is proving to be one of the best phyto-remediative plants we have been able to find” (Sensi Seeds).

In more recent times, we have seen Hemp phytoremediation being used by farmers in Italy, where between 2012 and 2013, the Hemp population changed from 3 to 300 hectares. People are also calling for Hemp phytoremediation in Japan in hopes of remedying the recent power plant accident in Fukushima, but due to the U.S. government’s Cannabis Control Law of 1948, this possibility has been scratched for the moment.


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