Solarcast Nano installed near Daiichi

Above: Joe mounting the Solarcast Nano within sight of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This week Safecast installed one of our new Solarcast Nano realtime radiation sensors at a site inside the exclusion zone in Okuma, Fukushima, just 2 km from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor. We currently have 15 fixed realtime sensors in Fukushima, as a reality check against official monitoring data. This is the closest to Daiichi we’ve been able to place a realtime sensor so far. As we described in our blog post last month, the Solarcast Nano is a solar-powered, stand-alone realtime monitoring device which evolved out of our earlier Pointcast and original Solarcast designs. We built ten prototype Solarcast Nano units in a test build session at our office in Tokyo last month, and have been testing them since then. We were shown this site in Okuma last month as well, the same day we had our tour of Daiichi, and immediately sought permission to mount a Solarcast there. Cooperative officials from Fukushima Prefecture, who understand the importance of transparency, helped make it happen. The site is an abandoned elderly home called the Sunlight Okuma Elderly Care Facility, which sits on a hilltop about 100m above sea level with an unobstructed view of Daiichi. Sunlight Okuma was within the 3km area given an evacuation order at 9pm on March 11, 2011. Thankfully the evacuation was handled well and there were no fatalities among the frail residents as there were at several other elderly homes and hospitals in Fukushima. Seeing the facility today is a bit depressing, as it was obviously a well-designed and attractive place when it was in operation. Now an abandoned gurney blocks the main entryway and the lobby shows signs of hasty abandonment, an eerie time capsule of six and a …

Safecast Visit to Fukushima Daiichi

I can’t count how many images I’ve seen of the reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi in the last seven years, easily hundreds, maybe thousands. I’ve seen photos, illustrations, maps, diagrams and even video detailing every angle and perspective. None of that prepared me for the awe of standing in front of them. This is ground zero for Safecast. These buildings, and what happened here in March 2011 would change my life – all of our lives – in one way or another, forever. Some might argue that Tepco is the antithesis of everything that Safecast stands for, so how did I and several of the core Safecast team find ourselves standing here this chilly December afternoon? As you can imagine, it’s not a short story…   We’ve managed to get bGeigies onsite at Daiichi several times in the past, mostly thanks to our lead engineer JAM, who has a knack for being asked by media crews to accompany them as a technical specialist who can let them know when they’re being bullshitted. We haven’t hidden our onsite surveys at Daiichi but haven’t advertised them either – if you’ve looked at our maps you’ve seen the data already. But Tepco is in a bit of a quandary of late. They know they’re viewed as evil, and are aware that the internet is full of stories claiming that the corpses of dead plant workers are stacked up in secret morgues. Even without the fake stories they know they fucked up stupendously. They’re Big Energy, with all the environmental depredation that implies, but despite that they seem to be hoping that they’ll be given due credit for their efforts to fix the situation. As part of this, they’ve taken steps to make the Daiichi plant more accessible to the public. In the past …

Introducing the Solarcast Nano

Earlier this year we announced our new Solarcast device. Most notably, this was our first production device to include air quality monitoring capability, but more significant for us was that thanks to Solarcast’s onboard cellular connection and solar power, we now had the ability to “drop and forget” a device, rather than depend on external power infrastructure or manual processes to get data from it. This was a major step  for Safecast and something we knew would find more uses for going forward. A few weeks later a tunnel collapse at the Hanford Site in Washington State presented just the kind of use case we had envisioned. The exciting benefits of Solarcast, however, were counterbalanced by its steep cost and time-consuming production requirements, and while the addition of air quality sensing is something we’ve been working on for a while, it’s not not necessary for quick-deployment radiation survey and monitoring scenarios like at Hanford. Our bGeigie Nano excels at that kind of operation, but it requires someone to physically carry the device around and upload the data. We needed something that combined compact portability and fully automated operation. So we designed it. And sliding in just before the end of the year, we’re excited to introduce the Solarcast Nano.   The Solarcast Nano emerged from our ongoing around the clock discussions of needs and emerging technical  possibilities.  As with the original Solarcast, Ray Ozzie led the design and wrote the software for it. The air quality components in the original Solarcast draw a lot of power, and eliminating them in the Solarcast Nano allowed us to shrink the size of the solar panel, with hopes of fitting it into a smaller pelican case similar to the bGeigie. We brought in Joseph Chiu from ToyBuilder Labs to do the 3d modeling and …

Southern California Wildfire Zones on the Safecast Map

The horrific wildfires currently burning in the Southern California region have already been devastating for some and have many others understandably concerned. In addition to the damage from the fires themselves, smoke inhalation could present health risks to people in the area. Safecast currently has 30 Solarcast units deployed in the LA area, which are equipped to measure particulate levels in air. In response to requests, we have added indications on our web-based map showing the extent of the fires as of Dec 9th, 2017. We have included five fire zone boundaries so far. They are: Thomas fire, Rye fire, Skirball fire, Creek fire, and Lilac fire. We hope they are informative. We can add more if it becomes necessary. If the fire zone indications are not automatically displayed when you view the Safecast tilemap : — Expand the control menu on the left-hand side of the window. — Scroll down until you see “Areas.” Toggle the selector switches for the fire zones to the “on” (blue) position. — If not already displayed, the Safecast Solarcast air quality measurements can be displayed by toggling the “Ingest Sensors” selector to the “on” position as well. An additional selector below that allows PM size and several other Solarcast measurement parameters to be chosen also. Please note: — The Safecast map is not a fire map! The fire boundary guidelines we provide are for information and context only. For safety information please consult reliable fire maps such as this California State fire map, this Google Crisis map and this Direct Relief map. —So far, almost all of the fires have been west of our sensors, and the wind has been blowing smoke westward over the ocean as well. This means our Solarcasts have not been in a position to detect much yet. Santa …