As you may have heard the exclusion (evacuation) zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues to be adjusted to allow people into areas with lower radiation levels, and move them out of areas with higher levels. There has been no easy way to see what these areas look like so Safecast volunteer Azby created this map showing the areas impacted. The pink areas are restricted, the orange and green areas were once restricted but now open for anyone to access.
SAFECAST is proud to announce that we have been awarded a Good Design Award for 2013, in the “Services and Systems for the Public” category.
SAFECAST was founded shortly after the start of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March, 2011. Independent and volunteer-run, SAFECAST has developed hardware and software systems for rapidly gathering accurate radiation data and making it easily accessible to the public via the internet and an iOS app. To date SAFECAST has collected and mapped more than 13 million data points, covering Fukushima and the rest of Japan as well as many locations overseas.
To celebrate our Good Design award, on Saturday Oct. 19, 2013, SAFECAST will hold a daylong bGeigie Nano building workshop on the 10th floor of Loftwork in Shibuya, and a thank you party immediately following. Please join us! It’s your chance to build an award-winning radiation detector with assistance from the designers, and learn how to contribute radiation data you’ve collected to our public database.
Date: Saturday Oct. 19, 2013
10:00 Doors open
10:30 Workshop starts
17:00 Workshop closes
Fees: Workshop: 45,000 yen (to cover the cost of a bGeigie Nano kit);
Party: 1,000 yen
Contact SAFECAST :
Excited to announce that Safecast has won a prestigious Good Design Award for 2013. We’re hoping to produce a limited run of bGeigie Nano’s to commemorate the award – stay tuned for details on this.
Want to build up a bGeigie Nano from scratch? You’re gonna need a PCB, so we just posted the schematic on OSH. You can download it or order a PCB directly from them if you want to give it a shot. What’s kind of cool here is that the standard bGeigie Nano’s have blue PCBs and the ones from OSH will be purple, so it’s kind of a limited edition / status symbol if you have a purple one. Pair it up with a Yellow Pelican Micro Case and you can have an LA Lakers edition. Of course if you don’t want to source every single part yourself you can still pick up the complete kit from Medcom.
The magi behind all things iOS in Safecast Land, Nick Dolezal, is working hard on the new version of the Safecast app (which will allow on demand refreshing of the map data) decided to whip up these alternate visualizations of the Safecast data. These maps show the frequency of samples taken – NOT READINGS OF THOSE SAMPLES – just showing how often a specific place has been measured. In this example, a location (like Fukushima) that has been measured repeatedly would show hot. Thought this was a really interesting look at the work Safecast has done over the last 2+ years.
Ethan Zuckerman, director the Center for Civic Media at MIT and friend of Safecast posse everywhere, took a bGeigie Nano for a spin the other day with the intent of checking out some depreciated nuclear facilities not too far from his house. He was successful, at least until the armed guards showed up and told him to GTFO. He wrote an incredibly thoughtful post about his experience and some questions this might bring up – it’s worth a read.
Projects like Safecast – and the projects I’m exploring this coming year under the heading of citizen infrastructure monitoring – have a challenge. Most participants aren’t going to uncover Ed Snowden-calibre information by driving around with a geiger counter or mapping wells in their communities. Lots of data collected is going to reveal that governments and corporations are doing their jobs, as my data suggests. It’s easy to track a path between collecting groundbreaking data and getting involved with deeper civic and political issues – will collecting data that the local nuclear plant is apparently safe get me more involved with issues of nuclear waste disposal?
It just might. One of the great potentials of citizen science and citizen infrastructure monitoring is the possibility of reducing the exotic to the routine.
At Safecast, we’re incredibly lucky to have the support and attention of folks like Ethan, and we’re excited to see where this all leads as well.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS DECONTAMINATION ANYWAY?
Does the Japanese government have a clear plan for decontaminating Fukushima Prefecture? Are the aims they’ve stated really feasible? Is anyone really able to keep track of the changing standards and guidelines? Lately the ministries tasked with managing this work, as well as spokespersons from various corners, seem to be falling all over themselves acknowledging on the one hand that the work is falling short but insisting on the other that it’s been successful. How reliable is government information about decontamination, and is it possible to weed through the contradictions to find some real data on which to base decisions?
We’d like to argue that yes, it’s possible to find informative data. But as has been the case with so many aspects of the post-Fukushima infosphere, it’s necessary to know exactly where to look, and it helps to have your own data handy for comparison.
Safecast wanted to survey a few sites that had been decontaminated and compare our readings with official before-and-after readings taken by the government. It ended up being extremely time-consuming to locate appropriate sites and get our hands on detailed government data. In this long blog post, we cover as much ground as possible, literally and figuratively. We describe what we found out, and what we had to do to find it out, and come up with a few conclusions. We provide plenty of maps and links to original sources of information. Since it’s long (did we mention that already?) here’s a brief synopsis and jump links:
Part 1: GOALS and POLICIES: Many places in several prefectures fall under decontamination guidelines of some sort, many more in fact than most people realize. We explain how the government has divided land into different categories for decontamination, how it’s intended to work and what it’s intended to accomplish, and who has responsibility for various areas.
- WHAT DO THESE NUMBERS MEAN?
- MANAGING DECONTAMINATION IN AREAS WHICH WERE NOT EVACUATED
- MANAGING DECONTAMINATION IN EVACUATED AREAS
Part 2: FINDING INFORMATION: One of the biggest problems with the decontamination process so far has been communication. Technically speaking, the government provides information to the public openly about decontamination policies, practices, and progress, but as has often been the case, it takes a bit of sleuthing to find it. No wonder people get upset and feel uninformed and misled. We discuss these and other criticisms, look at some official publications, and make some recommendations for improvement.
- LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
- WHAT’S WRONG WITH HOW THEY COMMUNICATE? (And what are they doing right?)
- EIGHT THINGS PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW: Safecast’s suggestions for improvement
Part 3: OUR COMPARISONS: Depending on the particular conditions of any site, it may or may not be worthwhile to spend a lot of time and money decontaminating it, since natural decay and weathering achieve the same ends very effectively in some cases. We surveyed two sites in Fukushima that had been decontaminated in late 2011- early 2012, and estimate what the levels would have been if they had not been decontaminated.
SOME CONCLUSIONS:Was all the decontamination worth it? The answer is, “In some cases at least.” We explain why, and what we might expect to see in the future.