Japan’s Fukushima, the site of the world’s second-worst nuclear disaster, is showing “unusual growing patterns” among vegetation in the area because of the radiation contamination.
Over 300,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes, and an exclusion zone had to be created. Slowly, following remediation, areas have opened up again, meaning people can return. Recently, the town of Futaba lifted its evacuation order.
Tim Mousseau, a professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina and a radiation expert, told Newsweek that a “vast region near the power plant” is still “significantly contaminated” but that levels are much lower than they used to be. However, the effects of radiation continue to be seen in the plants in the area, he said.
“There have been a few studies of the plants showing effects of the radiation. For example, it has been shown that Japanese fir trees show unusual growth patterns similar to that observed for pine trees in Chernobyl,” Mousseau said. “Such effects are still open for study, as they are preserved in the growth form of the plant/tree as long as it is still living.”
He continued, “Many areas are still contaminated above levels that most would consider safe for people to live, although most of the region is now relatively safe for short visits.”
Mousseau also said that the ongoing effects of the contamination and “other human disturbances” remain largely unknown, as “research in the region has dropped off dramatically in the past years because of COVID and Japan’s restrictions on visitors from outside the country.”
“Assuming Japan removes travel restrictions, more research will be conducted,” he said.