The bGeigie Diaries: The Temple Tale Of Fukushima City

Sadamaru Okano is a Zen priest at the Seirinji temple in the Fukushima region. He is one of the few individuals to have systematically collected radiation data in Fukushima that predates the Safecast data set. Here he speaks about his experiences in Fukushima around the time of  the earthquake of 2011 and why he stays involved with Safecast seven years after the Daiichi nuclear meltdown. You are one of the few people that had radiation data from the time predating the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. What led you to start collecting that data? When I was young – or should I say younger – in the late 80s and early 90s, I travelled quite a bit, many times in connection with volunteering. It introduced me to many cultures and gave me many friends from all over the world. On a couple of the trips, I met volunteers from countries in Eastern Europe. Of course, I knew about Chernobyl, but in my mind, it was over. This was the way that most people thought and felt about it. However, I met volunteers from Belarus and Ukraine who told me that it was definitely not over. That was one of the things that made me start to study radioactive materials and later to start taking measurements in the area around the temple where I am a priest today. The temple and your family have a long relation to this area, I believe. Can you tell me a bit about it and your memories of growing up here in Fukushima?    Our current temple, where we sit today, is over 150 years old. Before that, there was a similar temple on the grounds. My mother was born in Kawauchi village, and we have many relatives in other cities across the prefecture. I have cousins …

The bGeigie Diaries: From Six Years Before Fukushima To New Zealand

Data Collector: Allan Lind Data locations: New Zealand, Japan You started collecting radiation data here in Japan long before Fukushima. What got you interested and when did you begin collecting data? My initial interest in radiation really got started when I was working at a steel plant in my native New Zealand in the mid 1980’s. It was the time when Chernobyl had happened, and we also had a radiation source on the plant. It was used to automatically detect the edge of hot slabs of steel. There was a Cobalt 60 source under where the slab passed through, and a scintillation sensor above that did the measuring. We were visited by a Japanese contingent from Toshiba who knew a lot about radiation, and that got my interest going. Before too long, I was building my own Geiger counters. I moved to Japan, and I had my first fixed sensor set up in our house in Meguro about six years before the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused the Daiichi meltdown. You were in Tokyo during that early period after the earthquake. What are some of your memories of that time? I can remember going in to work on the Monday, and finding that some of the people hadn’t turned up. We were focused on the weather forecasts, to see if the wind would blow a plume in the direction of Tokyo, which of course happened. I was on a bus with my family when the plume passed over us, and the Geiger counter I had with me clearly showed a peak as it swept over us. The detector back at my house also recorded the plume. We were already booked to go to New Zealand for a holiday, and moved the date forward 3 days, so that we …

Chernobyl, 30 years ago

The Chernobyl Disaster happened April 26, 1986 – exactly 30 years ago today and until 2011 when disaster struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, it was the only level 7 nuclear event. Several Safecast volunteers have mapped out the Chernobyl site and surrounding cities which is still one of the most radioactive places on earth. Chernobyl is an unfortunate example of how information controlled only by the government and hidden from the affected people can lead to terrible results and was unquestionably part of the inspiration for us to start Safecast so quickly in the wake of Fukushima. It’s our hope that the measurements we provide from the Chernobyl area might be of use in projecting the long term contamination impacts of Fukushima, and help us to all to better address those this time around. Keep an eye on our twitter feed for Chernobyl related news over the next few days.

Fukushima: The Next Three Years Symposium

Above: Everything looked great on the huge screen, including Joi Ito Skyping in from MIT to say hello. The “FUKUSHIMA: THE NEXT THREE YEARS” symposium SAFECAST organized in commemoration of the third anniversary of the start of the Fukushima disaster was held at the Komaba Research Campus of Tokyo University on March 15, 2014. We’re incredibly pleased with how it went, with a nice turnout that included both familiar and new faces, a great set of presentations which balanced academic discussions with forward-looking proposals and newsy updates, and a lively final discussion that ended with a Futaba resident begging us to hold a similar event in his home town. Everyone enjoyed the reception afterward, too. Many thanks to Taichi Furuhashi of the Center for Spatial Information Science (CSIS) at Tokyo University for arranging the venue; to Loftwork for helping set up the USTREAM live video streaming; to our presenters; and to everyone else who pitched in for organizing, translating, helping, and making sure things happened pretty much when they were supposed to. Links to the videos of the event and the the presentations are below. The bGeigie Nano looms very large in Joe Moross’ life! Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute explains why he’s embraced crowdsourcing.  EVENT SCHEDULE: SAFECAST: The Next Three Years : Opening greetings from Joi Ito, SAFECAST co-founder and director of the MIT Media Lab via Skype, and the view forward from  Sean Bonner, Pieter Franken, and Kalin Kozhuharov (with Q&A) Ocean, Food, and Health trends:  Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute discussed new crowdsourced ocean research; Hidetake Ishimaru, of Kodomomirai citizens’ food testing lab in Tokyo spoke about the importance of independent monitoring; and Safecaster Azby Brown did his best to summarize what the experts on both sides are saying about health issues.  (with Q&A) …

Fukushima across the Pacific

Let’s make it clear: the release of radioactive contamination from the Fukushima NPP to the environment — the air, the land, and the ocean — is a massive disaster. There’s no other way to describe it. Radiation in the air spread far and wide, and was even detectable, though barely, on other continents, while radiation in the ocean is spreading more slowly but inexorably. We know that some of the fish caught off Japan have been too contaminated to be sold for human consumption, and that wide expanses of farmland in Japan have been contaminated as well. But what effects can be expected overseas? Lately there have been quite a few reports of die-offs, dangerously contaminated fish, and other horrors in the Pacific Northwest which have been ascribed to the effects of radioactive contamination in the Pacific ocean from Fukushima. Many people are worried and unsure, others are convinced that these reports are factual, and the stories have found a ready audience, mainly through online media. We’ve addressed and debunked a few of them already. Could it possibly be true that hazardous levels of Fukushima ocean radiation have reached North American Pacific shores? If this hasn’t happened yet, is it likely to happen in the future? The consensus among the many ocean scientists who have been monitoring the phenomenon is that Fukushima radiation is beginning to reach the Pacific coast, the levels will be so low they will only be measurable with extremely sensitive equipment, and that while the risks to people will not be zero, they will be “insignificant.” Let’s try to understand why. The ocean has been naturally radioactive since primordial times, and received quite a lot of fallout during the nuclear weapons testing era. Chernobyl added additional radioactive contamination to all of the world’s oceans, though considerably …

Fukushima Prefecture adapts SAFECAST worldwide radiation map on official prefectural website

The Fukushima Government has created a world wide map of radiation measurements powered by SAFECAST radiation measurements. Good news is that we’re working hard to expand our worldwide radiation map with Singapore, Holland, Belgium, Norway and Chernobyl. As reported in the Fukushima Mimpo Shinbun, on Sep. 8th, 2012 — Summary translation of the article : —– World radiation map is shown on the Fukushima prefecture website Fukushima Prefecture. updated its website “Fukushima prefecture radiation map” on Sep. 7th and started displaying radiation levels from around the world. Twelve countries with 21 spots and 46 prefectures outside of Fukushima with 571 spots are shown with data provided by Safecast, a citizen group, so that people can compare radiation levels to the rest of the world. The highest levels are 0.23 micro Sv/hr at Jayapura, Indonesia (June 8th) and Hong Kong, China(March 11th), and the lowest was 0.06 micro Sv/hr at Honolulu, Hawai (July 17, 2011) This site shows a total of 4452 monitored spots within the prefecture: 570 points monitored by the prefecture and an additional 3882 spots monitored by MEXT and various. (Translation credit – Kiki Tanaka)

Visiting Fukushima City (June 1, 2011)

[This is a guest written article, views expressed are the authors alone and may not be endorsed by Safecast] 1. Introduction On Wednesday, June 1, 2001,  I visited Nakate-san, the representative of “Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation”, in Fukushima City to hand two Geiger counters (International Medcom CRM-100 and Inspector Alert) provided by Safecast. This article is about the trip. 2. On Shinkansen I went to Fukushima by Shinkansen “Tsubasa” from Tokyo. I occasionally measured the radiation level inside the train car. At Utsunomiya Station while the train was stopped, I saw 0.12 micro Sv/h, but when approaching Koriyama, I saw 0.42 micro Sv/h, and at Koriyama Station while the train was stopped, I saw 0.56 micro Sv/h. Between Koriyama and Fukushima, it was 0.51 micro Sv/h. Discovering that I could measure high radiation level even on board train that was running, I decided to measure more frequently on train on my way back. After I mapped the result of monitoring radiation levels in juvenile welfare institutions in Fukushima by the prefecture ( http://goo.gl/ln0xH ), I could infer that the areas with higher radiation levels than the lower limit of what we call radiation control area by Japanese laws have spread across the prefectural boarders, but since we do not have (or I thought we did not have) the similar data outside Fukushima Prefecture, I could not be certain of the extent. I figured that by measuring radiation levels while going south by Shinkansen, I could have a better understanding of the extent to which the radioactivities have spread (the result is shown in 5, Conclusions).

Visiting Fukushima City (June 1, 2011)

1. Introduction On Wednesday, June 1, 2001,  I visited Nakate-san, the representative of “Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation”, in Fukushima City to hand two Geiger counters (International Medcom CRM-100 and Inspector Alert) provided by Safecast. This article is about the trip. 2. On Shinkansen I went to Fukushima by Shinkansen “Tsubasa” from Tokyo. I occasionally measured the radiation level inside the train car. At Utsunomiya Station while the train was stopped, I saw 0.12 micro Sv/h, but when approaching Koriyama, I saw 0.42 micro Sv/h, and at Koriyama Station while the train was stopped, I saw 0.56 micro Sv/h. Between Koriyama and Fukushima, it was 0.51 micro Sv/h. Discovering that I could measure high radiation level even on board train that was running, I decided to measure more frequently on train on my way back. After I mapped the result of monitoring radiation levels in juvenile welfare institutions in Fukushima by the prefecture ( http://goo.gl/ln0xH ), I could infer that the areas with higher radiation levels than the lower limit of what we call radiation control area by Japanese laws have spread across the prefectural boarders, but since we do not have (or I thought we did not have) the similar data outside Fukushima Prefecture, I could not be certain of the extent. I figured that by measuring radiation levels while going south by Shinkansen, I could have a better understanding of the extent to which the radioactivities have spread (the result is shown in 5, Conclusions). In Fukushima City, I have witnessed a number of surprising facts. The first surprise was that people wore normal clothes when they got off at Fukushima Station. Most of them did not wear facial masks. I was even more surprised to see a man with T-shirt and short pants. I wore a …

The bGeigie Diaries: Earthquake Fish, Seaweed, and Safecast’s Apolitical Stance

If Safecast volunteers had CVs, Jonathan Wilder’s would likely be one of the most diverse. Procurement officer, volunteer scientist, and chef extraordinaire are but a few of the roles he has filled since joining the group in late 2012. You might be one of the non-Japanese members of Safecast who has lived here the longest. What brought you to Japan? I came to Japan in 1991 and have lived here in central Tokyo ever since. The short version is that back in Massachusetts it was a confluence of several circumstances in my life that made the move to Japan possible: someone here in Japan invited me to stay at his place to start with; a job had just ended; my car lease was up; and I had a little bit of money saved up. The opportunity, combined with old memories of Japan and an appreciation for the culture, particularly the food, was enough to make me decide to come here. The first time I visited Japan was in 1970. During my childhood, my family lived in New Delhi. Each summer, on home leave, we would stop by other countries and that summer we came to Tokyo and the Osaka Expo. My first memory of Japan was being on a bus leaving Haneda airport. There were protestors outside lining the road outside the airports gates. I suppose now they were local farmers whose farms and fields were up for demolition to make way for construction projects. One of the other things I remember is visiting Ginza in the midst of a typhoon, seeing the tall buildings in Ginza, which were so different from New Delhi. When walking about Ginza, I felt tall. I don’t feel that now. Japanese people have grown, much like Tokyo. We took the Shinkansen to Osaka. That …

About that radioactive plume of Ru-106….

Above: The map released by IRSN on Nov. 9, 2017. Please note that it does not show the extent of the Ru-106 plume itself, but the likelihood that any of the grid points is the origin of the release. Updated Nov. 17, 2017, with information regarding a closed IAEA assessment made in mid-October, which was helpfully pointed out to us by a reader. Updated Nov. 20, 2017, with information regarding the analysis released in mid-October by the Czech National Radiation Protection Institute (SURO) in collaboration with the Institute of Information Theory and Automation (UTIA); also a theory that the release may have originated at Dimitrovgrad. Several days have passed since news articles appeared which summarized the findings of IRSN (Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, the French national radiation laboratory) regarding a sizable plume of radioactive Ruthenium 106 which was detected wafting over Europe in September and October 2017, peaking between Oct 2-3 and decreasing after that. Ru-106, which has a half-life of about one year, is used in cancer treatment for eye tumors, for powering orbital satellites, and can be released during nuclear fuel reprocessing. It was the only radionuclide from this incident detected by European laboratories, which rules out a nuclear reactor accident. Although the detections had been quickly reported by the relevant agencies of several European countries within the first week of October, and a number of articles about it appeared in the mass media at the same time, the event largely escaped public notice until IRSN’s report last week, which included an alarming map (above). IRSN, as well as Germany’s BfS (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz/ Federal Office for Radiation Protection), which has also conscientiously reported the results of its measurements since October, both gave assurance that the radiation levels detected in those countries were extremely low. In France, …