Earlier this year we announced a new geiger counter, designed by bunnie that we were hoping would be in production soon. We’re excited to announce two things – Firstly International Medcom is full steam ahead on a full production run of these devices that will be available later this year, and secondly we’re releasing a LIMITED EDITION, CLEAR CASE, NUMBERED VERSION exclusively through Kickstarter right now. Medcom and Kickstarter are teaming up to help us with this and the only way to ever get this edition will be to order through this campaign right now (or for the next few days while it’s live). You can read more about it and order here.
26 years have passed since the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. Many countries in Europe were affected of the radioactive fallout, including Norway which is roughly 2500 kilometers away from Chernobyl.
On May 18, 2012 The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) reported about a new helicopter survey (covering 3000 square kilometer) of the mountainous area in central Norway called Jotunheimen (home of the giants) which contains the highest mountain in North Europe (Galdhopiggen 2469m / 8100feet) and a large high-mountain plateau called Valdresflye which is the feeding area for about 7500 reindeer.
Today we are Safecasting from Tokyo to Minami Soma, Fukushima. Driving today are Joe and Kalin with self in the back seat handling communications (ahem)
Today’s goal is to measure a hotspot we recently found on our map in Minami Soma, take soil samples, cover a few roads not covered yet, and meet with volunteers in Koriyama in the evening. So far we have had heavy traffic due to rain and Golden Week holiday rush, and we hope to achieve as much as possible. Total distance 500km back and forth.
On board we have a lot of measurement equipment – 8 bGeigies, 14 various geiger counters and 1 spectrometer (SAM940 3″). We also have tools for taking soil samples.
The following is a post by contributing author bunnie, mirrored from the bunniestudios blog.
This past weekend marked the anniversary of the Tohoku-Oki earthquake that devastated Japan. I had not felt my blood so cold since I watched the twin towers fall almost a decade earlier. I still vividly remember the twisting knots I felt in my stomach as I watched the footage of a tsunami wiping out huge swathes of Japanese countryside. In a matter of hours, entire cities were washed off the map, leaving an eerie post-apocalyptic landscape of a few survivors weeping amongst twisted wreckage. Then, in the ensuing days, Fukushima Daiichi melted down, leaving in its wake one of the worst on-going radiation contamination crisis since Chernobyl.
I have good friends in Japan, and I visit often. I wanted to do something to help, but I didn’t know what I could do. I was connected by Joi Ito to Safecast, and I joined the effort to build an open sensor network that could aggregate trustable, source-neutral radiation monitoring data. Safecast itself has many talented and hard working volunteers who have done a remarkable job of achieving their goals by instrumenting Japan with radiation monitors and aggregating data through cleverly designed and rapidly deployable mobile monitoring capabilities.
I decided my tiny contribution to the effort would be to design a radiation monitor suitable for everyday civilian use. This is a preventative/preparedness measure, addressing the long-term issue of empowering a civilian population with few available options for power generation to self-monitor their environment. The problem with the current crop of radiation monitors is that they are basically laboratory instruments: accurate & reliable, but bulky, expensive, and difficult to use, requiring a degree in nuclear physics to understand exactly what the readings meant. Another problem with crises like these is that while radiation monitoring is important, it’s something that is typically neglected by the civilian population until it is too late.
On January 22-23 it snowed heavily in Tokyo. To see if it affects radiation measurements I ran out with a few geiger counters to see if I could detect any change.
Snow in Tokyo
To measure the fresh snow I used 3 geiger counters and absorption filters:
- Inspector Alert with 2″ pancake for measurement in CPM
- Thermo B20 for measurement in Bq/cm2 (calibration setting for Cesium, so will be off in case of other nuclides)
- Thermo PRD for gamma dose rate in uSv/hr
Snow activity measurement
Well, I did measure quite different levels compared to what the “normal” post-Fukushima levels are in my neighborhood (background typically around 30-40 CPM or 0.05-0.07 uSv/hr on the PRD). I used a cloth to capture fresh snow fall as opposed to measuring snow that already had accumulated.
For the last few months our visualization team at MIT in Cambridge lead by Anthony DeVincenzi have been working hard on some new visualizations of our data, the first of those is live now. This has a number of improvements from our earlier maps in that you can link directly to any specific location and zoom level, see census data in Japan overlayed to get an idea how many people are in some of these areas, customize the appearance and get some pretty specific details about the measurements themselves. That’s in addition to showing off the more then 2,000,000 data points we’ve collected so far. We’re really excited about this new map, as well as what’s to come in the future. Hope this is helpful for you as well!
On December 2nd, we handed one bGeigie to the Kenji Midori, the President of the World Karate Organization (WKO), or in Japanese “Shinkyokushinkai”. The WKO is well known in Japan and world wide for organizing the Karate World Championships. Actually the 10th World Cup was just held here in Tokyo.
Not in time for the holidays! We’ve had a few shirts made one at a time here and there and keep getting requests for them so we decided it was time to finally have some available for everyone else. Since this is our first merchandise offering we’re keeping it simple with a 2 color logo on the front of either a black, blue or grey shirt. We only made a few of each of these kind of just to test the waters – we’ll print some more once these are gone but depending on feedback we might do some variations on the design or use different color shirts.
As a bonus, any order received before January 1, 2012 will get some free Safecast stickers thrown in!
*** Order yours here ***
Earlier this year this we had the pleasure of meeting some of the folks at C-10, which is one of the oldest citizen radiation monitoring groups in the world. Established in 1986, they work to address the health and safety issues related to the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant in New Hampshire and small sensor network dedicated to this. They shared their history and encouraged us in our efforts.
While much of our attention is on Japan, Fukushima specifically – and rightly so – we’ve realized the need for this kind of data in places that haven’t already had problems. If we had the kind of data that we have now for Fukushima, but from sometime before this year’s event, we’d know a lot more about what and how things happened. Because of this we’ve been working to measure other areas when we have the opportunity. Recently Safecast Advisor Ray Ozzie was near Seabrook with a newly built bGeigie and decided to drive around the plant a bit and add the readings to our database. Here’s the map of his readings:
Additionally, Ray writes:
…here are a couple of photos that I snapped during the drive. Given that it was a brisk November day, it was a bit surprising to see the windsurfer fly into the frame as I was snapping the photo. You can also see that the area is a great source of local lobster (and clams).
By zooming out this map [bing | google] (particularly the first one), scanning the boardwalk on Ocean Blvd, you can also get a sense of the plant’s proximity to the beach-going public during the summer. Hence the importance for the public to have good and open data on a continuous basis.
This is a good time to point out that part of Safecast’s mission is to help inform people about their environments and surroundings, with data they didn’t have access to before. We’re all surrounded by things which could potentially have a serious impact on our lives at any moment, being more aware of this can only be a good thing.
Earlier this year Miles O’Brien and Xeni Jardin joined us in Japan to learn a bit about Safecast and joined us on a trip through Fukushima – I blogged about the day when it happened. They were working on a piece for PBS which aired in the US tonight. The full segment is viewable above, and the transcript is available here. There is also a accessory story about some of the abandoned pets we saw on the trip. These are fantastic pieces that really capture what we’re trying to do with Safecast.
Also, here’s a related piece where Miles tells Hari Sreenivasan a bit about Safecast’s hacker roots.