A study in the American Genetic Association’s Journal of Heredity examines the detailed genetic alterations of the all-important young rice plant when exposed to low-level radiation – that emitted by the Fukushima nuclear plant a year after the disaster.
Previous experiments had provided evidence of “ultralow-level gamma radiation triggering changes at the molecular level in the multi-layered defence / stress-related biological processes in rice leaves”.
The Fukushima disaster presented an opportunity to confirm these findings outside the laboratory. This was especially important since the ultralow dose of radiation the researchers desired to study could not feasibly be replicated in a lab setting.
The result? Multiple modes of cellular response were observed, ranging from the triggering of DNA repair mechanisms, to oxidative stress, often culminating in cell death.
Crucially, there was no direct contact between the studied seedlings and the contaminated soil so as to witness only the effect of radiation still present in the atmosphere. The exposed plants received a dose of radiation eighty to one hundred times greater than background.