Hemp "Eats" Chernobyl Waste, Offers Hope For Hanford
by Elaine Charkowski
Central Oregon Green Pages
An explosion at a nuclear reactor on April 26th, 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine
created the world's worst nuclear disaster - so far.
The blast heavily contaminated agricultural lands in a 30 km radius around
the reactor. The few people still living there must monitor their food and
water for radiation. However the combination of a new technology
(phytoremediation) and an old crop (industrial hemp) may offer the Ukraine
a way to decontaminate it's radioactive soil.
In 1998, Consolidated Growers and Processors (CGP), PHYTOTECH, and the
Ukraine's Institute of Bast Crops began what may be one of the most
important projects in history - the planting of industrial hemp for the
removal of contaminants in the soil near Chernobyl.
CGP is an ecologically-minded multinational corporation which finances the
growing and processing of sustainable industrial crops such as flax, kenaf,
and industrial hemp. CGP operates in North America, Europe and the Ukraine.
PHYTOTECH (see webpage: www.phytotech.com/index.html ) specializes in
phytoremediation, the general term for using phyto (plants) to remediate
(clean up) polluted sites. Phytoremediation can be used to remove
radioactive elements from soil and water at former weapons producing
facilaties. It can also be used to clean up metals, pesticides, solvents,
explosives, crude oil, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and toxins leaching from
Plants break down or degrade organic pollutants and stabilize metal
contaminants by acting as filters or traps. PHYTOTECH is conducting feild
trials to improve the phytoextraction of lead, uranium, cesium-137, and
strontium-90 from soils and also from water.
Founded in 1931, the Institute of Bast Crops is now the leading research
institution in the Ukraine working on seed-breeding, seed-growing,
cultivating, harvesting and processing hemp and flax.
The Bast Institute has a genetic bank including 400 varieties of hemp from
various regions of the world.
"Hemp is proving to be one of the best phyto-remediative plants we have
been able to find," said Slavik Dushenkov, a research scienst with
PHYTOTECH. Test results have been promising and CGP, PHYOTECH and the Bast
Institute plan full scale trials in the Chernobyl region in the spring of
Industrial hemp is not a drug. Unlike its cousin marijuana, industrial hemp
has only trace amounts of THC - the chemical that produces the high. In
1973, the Department of the Interior and Department of Health and
Agriculture of the former USSR issued an ultimatim to the Institute of Bast
Crops - either create non-psycoactive varities of hemp or stop cultivating
hemp. So, scientists at the institute created an industrial hemp plant
containing only minute traces of THC. Modern testing in Canada confirmed
the low THC content of the Bast Institute's hemp.
New technologies in hemp harvesting and processing are also being developed
at the Institute whose library contains more than 55,000 volumes mainly on
hemp-growing and flax-growing.
Chernobyl may seem distant, but the EPA estimates that there are more than
30,000 sites requiring hazardous waste treatment throughout the U.S.
including Hanford and Three Mile Island.
Phytoremediation with industrial hemp could be used at many of these sites.
Unfortunantly, the U.S. government refuses to legalize the cultivation of
industrial hemp and clings to the obsolete myth that it is a drug.
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