Sorry, this entry is only available in 日本語.
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.
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.
Internews, an international non-profit formed in 1982 with a mission to empower local media worldwide, has been doing important and groundbreaking work in areas such as medial law and policy, expanding access to information, and delivering innovative media solutions. The organization trains media professionals and citizen journalists, hoping to increase coverage of vital issues such as conflict management, environment and health, women and young people’s issues, and to help advance policies for open access to information. We admire them and their work, and think we’re motivated by similar concerns.
That’s why we’re pleased to learn that Internews has highlighted the work of Safecast in an important new 53-page report, “Connecting the Last Mile: The role of communications in the Great East Japan Earthquake,” authored by Lois Appleby, who was a first responder after 3/11 with CARE International. The report was supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
The report points out the good work that has been done by many other groups and individuals, and levels warranted criticism at the numerous failings of established media sources after the start of the disaster. It’s very forward-looking and positive overall, though, and very well-written. We couldn’t help but notice that the founding of Safecast made it into their timeline of key post-3/11 media developments!
We’re all the more pleased because we didn’t have any contact with Internews before the report came out, and they included us without our knowing it. We really didn’t see this one coming!
The start of the project for YR-Design was an extension of building bGiegies in Aizu Wakamatsu. By being in Aizu, having build a few bGeigies for SAFECAST and being exposed to the GreenSmile project from Jun Yamadera (Eyes-Japan), it was a logical step to enter the project. Jun Yamadera first came to YR-Design with his, at that time current version, sensor, a big box behind a bicycle. The box contained a custom build Geiger counter and other sensors. It also contained a big battery to power the WiFi access router. Jun asked us to looking possibilities for modifying the design to make it smaller. At that time YR-Design could not commit enough resources and time to help out.
In November 2012 we could commit more time to the project and at the same time Pieter Franken asked us to help with building bGiegeNanoKit prototypes. We made two prototypes (breadboard and wired by hand).
At the Safecast Hakathon in January, 2013, Naim Busek taught me how to program the Xbee’s (modules that extend wireless communications for Arduino). Although we did not get an Ad Hoc network going at that time, I knew it would not be too hard to do.
At the Hackathon I mounted temperature and humidity sensors on one of the bGiegieNano, but did not test/develop the software (see picture). Also I mounted the modified bGiegieNano, with sensors, on a nice modern bike that could display data or advertisements on the wheel with Money Electric Videopro8 .
Back in Hikone, YR-Design made the software for interfacing the wheel and sensors with the bGeigie. Temporally using the existing data string as a base. And extending the data string with temperature and humidity fields. We made the interface working on WiFi (Xbee WiFi in AdHoc mode) with an Iphone, so Jun Yamadera could use it on a trade show for Carbon Credits. Also the bike with sensors was used for the introduction of Clif bars in an event organized by Duco delgore with the logo displayed on the wheel.
A second bGeigieNano with sensors was made for another bike. The sensors for that bGiegeiNano were mounted with the expositor of the sensor at the bottom to prevent water entering the sensors. The bike was also showed at TV News of Fukushima TV
Global Survey Corp., which goes by the initials “GLC,” has been mapping Japan’s roads since 2005. Their data is used in many car navi systems, as well as for quite a few specialized applications. For instance, since 2009, the company has been measuring and mapping electromagnetic wave intensity to help customers optimize the placement of antennas for radio broadcast and wireless LANs, and to improve location accuracy for cell phone providers. So they have experience gathering invisible environmental data.
Safecast was very fortunate to be introduced to GLC in August, 2011, by Prof. Tomo Furutani, part of Prof. Jun Murai’s team at Keio University, which also provided material support for the project. By early September that year GLC had a bGeigie in operation on one of their road-mapping vehicles, and soon asked for two more. The results they obtained in one year with three bGeigies were so good, we provided ten more units in December 2012. GLC recently passed the million-measurement mark for Safecast, which makes them our single most prolific data-gathering volunteer. We’re incredibly grateful for the time and effort they have put into collecting radiation data for us.
Hidenori Nakajima, the GLC liaison for this project, says, “After 3/11, so many people in Japan were in trouble, and our company wanted to do something for them. When we heard about Safecast’s bGeigie system, we were extremely impressed. Anyone can use it just by attaching it to their car. We’re very happy we’ve been able to help.”
GLC has told us that they try to cover every major road in Japan three times a year, and all the other roads at least once each year. Out of their fleet of 14 cars, 7 or 8 are on the road at any one time. With so many bGeigie-equipped vehicles constantly crisscrossing the country we estimate that GLC could soon be providing 500,000 measurements per month to Safecast. To that, we all say, “Hooray!”
Our friends at Global Giving did this last year and it was incredibly helpful for us, so they’ve decided to do it again. From March 1st to March 15th they will be matching donations 100%, and on March 11th they will match 200%! The trick is there is a limited amount of matching funds available so if they are used up before the end of this campaign then matching stops. What this means is if you’ve been considering making a (tax-deductible) donation to Safecast, doing it now multiplies your impact greatly. Here’s the link to donate. You can also follow along and see how the matching program is going using this leaderboard . Thank you so much for helping us continue this work!
A massive update to the iOS app just went live in the app store. If you don’t have it already you can download it here. In addition to the full Safecast database, there are new map layers showing natural background (and subtractions) as well as interpolations.
Combined with your iPhone’s GPS this continues to function as the best (only?) virtual geiger counter available. It’s free, so please consider downloading it now.
Full update notes after the jump.
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)
Earlier this year we held what will hopefully be the first of many Safecast Hackathons. Since Safecast has such a fantastic team of volunteers working together, we thought it might be beneficial to bring everyone together in one city for a week to hash through ideas and cross things off the todo lists. While the ability to have a distributed team is amazing, there’s immense value in getting everyone together face to face. We did this for the first time in January – brining team members from Los Angeles, Boston and Dublin over to Tokyo to work closely with those already in Tokyo as well as volunteers from elsewhere around Japan.
We took over two (sometimes three) floors at our offices in Shibuya (thanks to Loftwork & FabCafe for letting us) and worked on wide range of Safecast related issues. Hardware, software, devices and mobile issues. Our data upload area has been completely redesigned and our map now updates hourly with refreshed data from our servers so it’s incredibly up to date – more so than it’s been in over a year. These were both major milestones that we’re very happy to have pulled off. We also walked away with a firm grasp of some next steps. We’ve already begun planning for our next Hackathon which will likely take place in April in Boston. Lesson learned from this one is to have more focus on fewer areas as things got a little chaotic in Tokyo, but each one of these will teach us something and we’re looking forward to the progress we continue to make. Below is the final toast, one of the volunteers brought some amazing Sake from Fukishima for everyone, as well some photos from the week.
(Photos by Pieter Franken and Sean Bonner)