Written by: Norio Watanabe
Safecast Volunteer from Koriyama
On a cloudy day in early summer, Safecast members and volunteers gathered in Aizu-Wakamatsu to hold a bGeigie Nano-assembling workshop. The workshop took place at the IT company Eyes, JAPAN Co., Ltd. courtesy of the company president Mr. Yamadera.
Through the first round of measurements by car, Safecast mostly completed the radiation map of Fukushima Prefecture in 2011. The map is available on the Safecast.org website. Data has been collected at 10 million points so far and is being updated every day. The radiation map is becoming more detailed as volunteers take measurements while either cycling or walking in order to measure radiation in places that cannot be accessed by car.
The bGeigie Nano is small, light and much easier to use than the original b-Geigie. It has a measuring mode and a recording mode. In measuring mode, you can take the bGeigie Nano out of the case and measure surface contamination. The measurements can be converted from CPM to Bq/m2. In recording mode, CPM measurements are recorded on the microSD card along with the GPS coordinates, the time and the name of the person taking the measurements (the owner’s name is registered in each bGeigie Nano). The data can be shared and shown on the map by uploading it onto the Safecast website.
If you have soldering experience, assembling the bGeigie Nano should be relatively easy (although, with my old eyes, some parts are difficult without a magnifier). It does not require detailed soldering of ICs for example because most of the circuit parts are provided in the form of commercially available add-on boards, called “breakouts.” All you need to do is solder resistors, capacitors, transistors, switches, connectors, and some wires. (If your kit contains any incorrect parts, I recommend that you use the opportunity to visit nearby parts shops or to communicate with a Safecast member or volunteer who has experience in making the bGeigie Nano. Both are fun experiences.)
Assembling the bGeigie Nano takes about an hour if you’re experienced. It may take half a day if you are a beginner and need guidance. The bGeigie Nano is not yet sold as a finished product, and it gives you the opportunity to enjoy learning how it works while assembling it. You will also appreciate that despite its high performance, the price of the kit is low.
Geiger counters visualize invisible radiation. The visualization of radioactivity by mapping it not only provides the information for protecting yourself, but also helps remove anxiety about invisible radiation by learning about it.
One Geiger counter enables us to know whether radiation measurements on a specific spot are high or low as well as the distribution of different air radiation levels in the areas where we live. I think that knowing the facts removes fear and helps us to take the next steps.
Many people in Fukushima Prefecture have been living under considerable stress due to radiation being invisible. It sometimes feels easier to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” in order to restore our pre-earthquake lives by acting as if there is no radioactivity. However, I believe that we can find ways to tackle the problem if we have the courage to find out about it.
To conclude my workshop report, I want to talk a bit about why I am involved in Safecast. The reason is because those gathered at Safecast have pure spirits, innocent minds and warm hearts. The majority of active members are from overseas, they come from various different countries and have different technical backgrounds. I was touched to know that they really love Japan and try to use their skills for Japan. Safecast is a group of adults who have the curiosity of children. This is why I have been able to work with them for a long period of time, while managing to communicate with them using my Fukushima dialect instead of their languages! I really want to thank them all.
(Translation: Megumi Minami & Kevin Stride)