Sorry, this entry is only available in 日本語.
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 :
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.
Sorry, this entry is only available in 日本語.
We are happy to announce that local citizens from Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture have joined the Safecast volunteer network. (Mr. Tateno, Mr. Sekine and Mr. Noguchi from the left)
Chichibu has beautiful countryside and is surrounded by mountain ranges. In winter the mountains are covered by snow. I found the scenery very attractive, and somewhat similar to Nagano.
It is believed that a substantial dose of cesium fallout affected this region after the Fukushima NPP accident on 3.11 in 2011. In order to understand the current situation, a local citizens’ group contacted Safecast. Chichibu is an area in which Safecast had not yet measured radiation levels.
The three people in the above photo are the founders of a local food radiation monitoring station called “The association to protect everyone’s health and life from radiation in Chichibu” (“Houshano kara minnano kenko to inochi wo mamoru chichibu no kai”). They are retired school teachers who run the monitoring station and provide services to check radiation contamination levels from food samples brought by local people. They use an Atomtex 1320A, a radiation detector made in Belarus which is designed for food, distributed in Japan by Advanced Fusion Technology, Co., Ltd.. At ¥1,600,000 it is an expensive unit. Local citizens pitched in to purchase the device, and any concerned resident can have food checked with the device by paying just ¥1,000 for a one-item test. A single-item test takes approximately 30 minutes, with adetection limit for cesium of 7 Bq/kg. They purchased the device in July 2012, and since then items they have tested which exceeded the allowable levels (100 Bq/kg) have been publicly reported through their newsletter.
So far, mushrooms, including shiitake, have shown high levels of contamination (the tendency of wild mushrooms to accumulate high levels of cesium became well known after Chernobyl). Here are some examples reported by the group:
|Food type||Region produced||Month tested||[Cs 134/137
|Fresh mushroom||Chichibu City||Dec. 2012||209.5 Bq/kg|
|Yokoze Town||Oct. 2012||367 Bq/kg|
|Chichibu City||Oct. 2012||223 Bq/kg|
|Ryokami Village||Oct. 2012||219 Bq/kg|
They also check the contamination level of soil collected from gardens and the points where water from gutters reaches the ground. The contamination levels of the latter are particularly high. For example, one of the tests found 119,700 Bq/kg at the highest. In the Chichibu area, people traditionally eat wild game, including wild deer and wild boar. Their tests have identified that wild animals have been contaminated, but although the samples they have tested have not been as high as those found in shiitake and other wild mushrooms, wild deer from the area with over 800 Bq/kg was recently reported in the press:
The core members of the group have been providing seminars, talks and workshops to share the information thy have collected. They are collaborating with neighboring regions to inform the public about radioactive substances. The group has been run mainly by retired school teachers, including a high school science teacher who retired once but has returned to teaching part-time. His knowledge about radiation has increased the credibility of the group in the eyes of locals. We look forward to including newly collected data from the Chichibu region to the main Safecast map soon.
Safecast volunteer Kiki
(Translated by Akiko)
- Declaring that the Situation is Safe with No Clear Explanation Led to Anxiety
The explosions at the nuclear power plant right after 3.11 were a great shock to all of my family. The earthquake affected phone connectivity, but my father who lives away from us due to his work managed to contact us by phone. He told me, “Get your wife and child and run, right away!” I did not understand what he meant. I thought, “Why do we need to run, when the government is saying that it’s safe?”
We had a heated argument on the phone – It’s the only time I have been yelled at by my father since I became an adult. He said to me, “Look at the map!” Then I realized that the nuclear power plant was much closer to our home than I had thought. I realized how close it is to our home, although it felt so far away when I went there with my family in my childhood.
However, I could not convince myself to leave my mother and my grandparents behind. It is a natural thought because they are my family. But in reality, it was impossible — both of my grandparents are over 85 and they require nursing care. Evacuating could have made them ill, so we had to make a sad decision. They had to stay with my mother. When we were having this discussion, I saw my grandmother cry for the first time. Facing the reality that they could not evacuate, although they wanted to, left me feeling powerless. We packed our things with tears in our eyes.
My mother saw us off with a smile, telling me, “We have no regrets because we have lived long enough. We want you young people to stay healthy and live long. That will make us happy. You should do everything you can to protect your wife and child!” I have not forgotten how sad it was to see my mother shedding tears in the rear view mirror as we drove off.
After we arrived at our new apartment in a different town, we opened the boot of the car to find the food that I had originally brought to my parents’ house to give to my mother and grandparents after the earthquake, as well as the food from my parents’ house. My mother must have packed them for us.
I decided to write this blog article because I wanted people to know that even people who lived outside the evacuation zones found themselves in this surreal situation.
- Our Health Problems / Neighboring People’s Reaction to the Contamination
My family members experienced health problems around three weeks after the nuclear disaster. My grandmother suffered a cerebral infarction caused by high blood pressure although she used to have low blood pressure. My grandfather, who insisted on eating budded leaf vegetables harvested from his contaminated kitchen garden, suffered from very bad diarrhea and lost weight rapidly. My mother’s voice became raspy just like a boy at puberty. I am not an expert and cannot tell if exposure to radiation directly caused these changes, but I was surprised to see my family members suddenly fall ill because before then they had not had any major diseases. I also felt weary and I felt light-headed for about a month after the explosions at the nuclear power plant.
After moving, it took me a while to get better and start thinking about what was going on. I started being concerned about radiation levels where we live.
I measured radiation levels around my parents’ house with a radiation counter that I managed to purchase. It measured between 1.2 and 45.0 μSv/hour outdoors depending on the area. The counter made a continuous noise from the speaker as radiation hit the detector tube. Despite the elevated radiation levels, the neighboring areas looked peaceful and life was going on as usual.
Food shortages, which were the main concern, gradually decreased while the aftershocks continued. However, the general public had no idea that enormous amounts of radiation were continuously hitting their bodies.
Individual people started “declaring that everything was safe” by themselves one after another without having any detailed knowledge of what was going on. My father was one of them.
When I was wondering what I (who evacuated leaving some of my family members behind) could do, I saw Safecast on the TV by chance. I wanted to help with their measurement activities.
- Totally Changed Lifestyle
Our lifestyle completely changed while our family ties strengthened after the explosions at the nuclear power plant on March 12.
My family used to grow various vegetables in our kitchen garden and all the family members joined the “harvest festival” in the harvest season. We would hold various annual events using the harvested vegetables such as barbecues and a “pork miso soup party.” It was my father’s delight to send freshly harvested vegetables to his friends and acquaintances every year who would then call to thank him. However, after gardening for many years he had to stop this year. This is because a Geiger counter we borrowed from Safecast made a continuous noise, just like the snow on an analog TV, when we held the counter close to the garden soil. This told us that a lot of radioactive material fell on the garden. After hearing this sound, my father silently pulled up the vegetables that he had planted.
I later asked my father why he was not growing vegetables in the garden this year. He said that he could not have his garden vegetables checked for radioactivity because his vegetables are not for commercial use and it is unbearable to let his grandchild and other family members eat vegetables which have not been confirmed safe. He also told me that stopping growing vegetables all together is the best way to protect everyone because once he grows the vegetables, it would be very hard for him not to give them to people or eat them himself.
We used to take my child to my parents’ house often so that they can see how fast their grandchild is growing, but such chances decreased after the accident. My child began walking but we cannot let him walk around the garden of my parents’ home any more.
My father and I have just completed a large wooden deck and a sandbox which we were working on since last year. Sadly, they became hotspots (9600 cpm). My family has completely lost the outdoor part of our own home.
- Sad Safecast Measurement
I was able to learn how to take measurements using a bGeigie (a Geiger counter in a bento-box) after receiving a brief explanation when I borrowed the device. Taking measurements is very easy. You attach the bGeigie to the side of your car, switch it on and then drive around. You then attach the data to an email and send it.
At first, I did not notice the situation in the areas I was driving around because I was more interested in this new measurement system. As I got used to using the device, I started to feel uncomfortable with what I was seeing.
While I had the radiation counter (that I bought) inside the car, the alarm kept going off, but children in front of me were sitting on the ground and enjoying fishing, elementary school students were running in the water in a roadside ditch as they played tag and a little child and mother were enjoying strolling around.
I did not know if that particular place was dangerous at the time, but the place was marked with red and brown when I later saw the Safecast measurement map (colors closer to red and brown indicate higher radiation levels). I realized that the general public does not know that a large amount of fallout came down on the area. It made me very sad and at the same time, I felt angry at myself because I could not solve any of these problems.
Although it is not glamorous work, I believe that our measurement efforts will contribute to a better future for our children.