Nuclear waste will help your greens grow, claims BNFL

AS COMPOST goes it's in a class of its own. If you want a crop of spinach which would give even Popeye a glow give British Nuclear Fuels a call. Radioactive waste may not be the most organic of gardening aids, but it sure is effective. And it's not only the veg that it's good for. Sunflowers love it.

BNFL, Britain's most controversial nuclear company, says using the waste as compost is a highly effective , and "green", way of getting rid of it.

This low-tech discovery will amuse anti-nuclear activists because it means their bitterest enemy has made use of their oldest campaigning symbol. The sunflower has been used by opponents of nuclear power for decades - it is the trade mark of Green parties across Europe.

Scientists at BNFL now claim spinach and sunflowers are "pleasurable, green and cost- effective tools" for cleaning contaminated land.

The scientists turned to horticulture because they needed to find a better and cheaper way of dealing with radio-active soil than digging it up and carting it to its one nuclear waste site at Drigg, near Sellafield. They reasoned that as plants lived by "mining the soil for nutrients" they could also be used "to take up and sequester contaminants from the ground". They grew four kinds of plants - spinach, perpetual spinach, Indian mustard and the sunflowers - on land contaminated 30 years ago by waste from a burst pipe in BNFL's nuclear power station at Bradwell, Essex.

After eight weeks they cut and dried the plants and found the sun flowers and perpetual spinach had taken up large amounts of the radioactive contaminant caesium 137 from the soil. They say "repeated planting and harvesting" should "enable the gradual removal" of the radioactivity. They do not say what they do with the "hot" sunflowers. Sunflowers were first used as an anti-nuclear symbol by a German environmentalist, Rowland Vogt, because they follow the sun. Sarah Parkin, a former leader of the British Green Party, a historian of green politics worldwide, says the flower was taken up as a "positive affirmation of the true source of energy, the sun".

She adds: "It is nice to see BNFL taking up green symbolism. But it would be better if they took up the philosophy and did not produce the nuclear waste in the first place."

The perpetual spinach took up waste more thoroughly than the sunflower. So it could be used to take up nuclear radiation from the sites of accidents such as Chernobyl, though even Popeye would not advise bringing the resulting fodder to the dinner table.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones