Open Letter Regarding Decommissioning Sensors in Fukushima

To Whom It May Concern, In a report titled 「リアルタイム線量測定システムの配置の見直しについて(案)」 (Review of placement of real-time dosimetry system (draft)) published on March 30, 2018, the NRA announced their plan to remove and/or relocate approximately 80% of the more than 2800 realtime monitoring stations installed in Fukushima since 2011. Among other things, the report argues that radiation levels in some locations, such as parts of Aizu, were never higher than Tokyo to begin with after the accident, and have declined significantly in most other parts of the prefecture. The NRA claims that there will be sufficient monitoring of more appropriate types available (handheld survey meters, etc.) even after most of the monitoring stations are removed, so the need for continuing the current realtime monitoring system is low. They propose to remove the monitoring stations by 2020 from places in evacuation order-lifted areas where dose rates are “sufficiently” low and stable, and propose to relocate some devices to areas where local governments request them. We think removing these monitors is a terrible, poorly thought out idea. While we’ve previously written about the problems with how these sensors were deployed (part 1 & part 2) as well as trouble with their upkeep, we’ll be the first to acknowledge that they have also proven useful, and even with their flaws they are better than no sensors at all. Like many aspects of the post-disaster response, the lack of pre-accident planning meant that this system was designed and deployed in a rushed fashion without sufficient consultation with locals. Fujitsu had only 75 days to develop and deploy the data backbone for the entire system, for instance, and hardware developers had only slightly more time. Decisions on the placement of the units were particularly rushed and haphazard, meaning that some areas have many redundant monitoring stations, and …

The bGeigie Diaries: Travelling Through Invisible Time In Fukushima

The following is a collection of impressions and thoughts from a recent trip to the Fukushima region with Safecast. It is a personal account of the trip and should be read as such. March 13th, 2018, approximately 3.30 pm The high school looks and feels like almost any other that you can find throughout Japan. On the grounds outside the main building, which looks like it’s put together out of oversized concrete Lego bricks, a sweating football team is running through the last of the day’s practice drills on a reddish, sandy pitch. The trophy cabinet inside the entrance hall suggests that they’re pretty good. I grew up playing football (still wondering how the national team coach must have lost my phone number), and it tugs at invisible strings to look on from the sidelines. I had the luxury of real grass pitches. It makes you play differently, more freely. Most of the teenagers throwing themselves around this pitch in Fukushima today are probably blissfully unaware of what they’re missing out on. This is what they are used to. Somewhere on the second floor, a music teacher, who must either have gone full Beethoven or have the patience of a saint, is subjecting him or herself to an hour in the company of the most disorganised horn section I have ever heard. Perhaps they’re not practising classics but playing modern, avant-garde, 12-tone jazz. The bleeps, blaahhts, and screeches echo across a courtyard where small groups of students move between buildings. I walk down the hallway’s grey, laminated floors, past classrooms, and curious, inquisitive heads pop up out of textbooks and physics experiments to see who’s come to visit on this perfectly ordinary Tuesday afternoon. Most of them must have been around 10 years old, and likely in school, on Friday, …

Safecast sensors and local volunteers document effect of SoCal brush fires

Safecast has two Solarcast Air Quality devices located close to the area in Southern California hit by brush fires this week. Local volunteer Meeno Peluce also photo documented the fires in Montecito Heights in LA, near a Solarcast sensor that he hosts.   The location of this sensor can be seen in the lower right below: And this graph shows the air returning to normal very quickly after the fires were put out. You can explore the data yourself on the Safecast map. Luckily only brush was burned and nearby homes were spared. A little further west in Goleta people weren’t so lucky: The readings from the Safecast Solarcast sensor in Goleta can be found on the Safecast Map here. This area is currently evacuated but the sensor is still reporting in which we hope is a good sign for the neighborhood where it’s placed. Bush fires have hit several places in the last few days. One has torn through an area on the border between California and Oregon. According to ABC News, the fires have killed at least one person and torched hundreds of homes. In the hills around Goleta, located in Santa Barbara County, at least 20 homes have burned since the fire began on Friday night local time. We’ll be looking further at the air sensor data we’re getting from these sensors and others near by and report back if we find more.

Safecast bGeigieNanoKit V1.4.1 features

 Introduction: Firmware V1.4.1 for the bGeigieNano is available now at https://github.com/Safecast/bGeigieNanoKit. A 5-second hotspot reading feature has been added. This should be especially useful for finding out exactly where the radiation is highest in a given area, and for finding the source. A video about the added functionality can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GF0vf3rVHw It has been a while since Safecast released an update for the firmware of bGeigieNano. The main challenge when creating patches/added functionality is the limited memory space of the FIO hardware. How to update your bGeigie Nano:     Mac: 1. Application for Mac (easiest). Download and run this app, which is a self-contained installer that contains the new firmware package: https://github.com/Safecast/bGeigieNanoKit/blob/master/bGeigieNano_V1.4.1_uploader.app.zip Connect the FTDI connector to the bGeigieNano. (Remove the BLE module, if used, from the Xbee socket) Press the flash button (check exact operation of button) 2. Source code and compilation method: Get code from Github Setup compiler environment as described at https://github.com/Safecast/bGeigieNanoKit under “Build process” Run “make” , connect the bGeigieNano and run “make upload”     Windows: Hex file download and use UploaderX Download the hex file from: https://github.com/Safecast/bGeigieNanoKit/blob/master/bGeigieNanoV1.4.1.hex Download the UploaderX program from: http://xloader.russemotto.com/ Connect the FTDI connector to the bGeigieNano. (Remove the BLE module, if used, from the Xbee socket) Run the program and configure it with your COM port. Also, make sure that the Baud Rate is set to 115200. Select the Hex file from the location where you saved it before in step 1 above. Click “Upload” to transfer the hex file to the bGeigieNano. How to Setup the Alarm level: Shut down the bGeigieNano and take out the SDCARD. Edit the SD card SAFECAST.TXT and change the alm=XXX settings to set the CPM count/trigger level.  Power on the bGeigieNano. Display changes: If the bGeigieNano is in normal logging mode you …

Safecast devices used for first readings inside a US nuclear plant

Safecast-collaborators from the NGO Residents Organized for a Safe Environment (ROSE) recently used a bGeigie Nano when visiting the site of the San Onofre nuclear plant in California (you can see the measurements here). It was the first time that Safecast’s devices have been used to make measurements inside a US nuclear facility.   The group, which also hosts a Solarcast, has been volunteering with Safecast for a while now, and their strong, local efforts combined with Safecast’s reputation and standing could lead to several Solarcasts finding a more permanent home on the grounds of the San Onofre Plant. “Our collaboration has the potential to lead to the creation of the first monitoring system of its kind in the US, which would be really exciting, and show the value of local groups having open, accessible tools to work with, rather than having to rely solely on equipment and measurements from companies and government organisations,” Sean Bonner of Safecast says. Potential real-time monitoring system ROSE is looking to use Solarcast Nano-devices as a permanent first-alert system for the San Onofre, nuclear waste dump. The plan is to place the Solarcast Nanos close to the heat vents of the 72 Holtex and 51 Areva canisters at San Onofre. This would enable better monitoring of the canisters and a quicker response in case of leakage. “If the CPM numbers measured at the vent stay stable over a given period, that would indicate that there were no leaks. However, if this same canister’s numbers moved up significantly for an extended period, that would be an indication that a leak had begun. Some of those cans – which is probably a more correct way of describing them – are already 15 years old,” Gene Stone of ROSE, says. He also notes that while South Californian …

PART 2: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?

Photo: Kyodo/Reuters (Part 1 here)                (Related Japan Times article here) DOES THE PUBLIC HAVE A SAY? For their part, representatives of the government and TEPCO I have spoken with invariably stress how important it is to them to reach understand and agreement with all stakeholders, the Fukushima fisheries coops in particular, and to respond to their concerns in the decision-making process. They say they are fully prepared to accommodate the fishermen’s desires regarding the quantity and timing of releases, how they will be monitored, and how to adjust the release parameters in response to what is found after the system begins operation. And although when I point out that concern is not limited to fishermen in Fukushima, but that coops in Miyagi and Iwate, as well as Ibaragi and Chiba also consider themselves stakeholders, and that in fact residents internationally along the entire Pacific rim have already expressed concern, officials voice agreement but cannot point to any concrete efforts to communicate with or include anyone outside of Fukushima or the Tokyo power centers. In the same way, the concerns of major food distributors such as supermarket chains, who ultimately make the decision whether or not to purchase and sell Fukushima marine products nationwide, do not seem to be being addressed. Shuji Okuda, METI’s Director for Decommissioning and Contaminated Water Management, Nuclear Accident Response Office, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, stressed that no decision has yet been made which of the five options for dealing with the tritiated water detailed in the 2016 Task Force report will be chosen. In other words, although TEPCO, government ministries, and stakeholders are proceeding as if it’s a done deal, no-one with decision-making power has yet made a decision. “It will be a decision of the Japanese Government as a whole,” Okuda explains, “not one …

PART 1: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?

Photo: Safecast An shorter article on the same subject was recently published in the Japan Times; this blog post provides more technical detail and sources of information. 850,000 TONS Of all the conflicts and consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP disaster, the contaminated water issue is one of the most complicated, contentious, and potentially long-term. It’s a multifaceted problem ultimately rooted in the influx of groundwater into the damaged reactor buildings. A large volume of water is pumped into and out of the damaged reactors each day to keep them cool. This is treated to remove salt and most radionuclides and recirculated back into the reactors. If there were no additional water leaking into the reactor basements, this could function as an essentially closed loop. But a volume equal to the additional groundwater inflow needs to be removed from recirculation. It too is treated to remove all radionuclides except tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen known as H-3, and is being stored in the now familiar rows of tanks onsite at Daiichi. A partially effective underground dam of frozen earth, together with a system of subdrain pumps, has reduced the volume necessary to be removed from about 400 cubic meters per day to about 150-200 cubic meters (though appreciably more when it rains heavily). About 850 large tanks now hold 850,000 tons of tritiated water, and TEPCO says that it will run out of space to store additional water onsite by 2020, so something must be done soon. As far back as 2014, the IAEA recommended a controlled release of this water to the ocean as the safest course of action, and Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Agency (NRA) has made similar recommendations. A Tritiated Water Task Force convened by METI in 2013 examined five options in detail, including evaporating it and …

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 …

Safecast bGeigie featured in recent museum exhibitions

The bGeigie has been taking a small break from its day job collecting radiation data and touring museums in Asia and North America. The visits are merely a different kind of work, though, as Safecast’s bGeigie Nano and data visualizations have been featured two interesting recent exhibitions. One, called “Make It Make It,” was at the Buk Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA). The exhibition’s aim was to reinterpret maker activity and the makers movement from the viewpoint of contemporary art. Safecast and its bGeigie were featured as part of the exhibition as an illustration of ‘what collective intelligence can connect, collaborate and share over the network.’ On the American East Coast, another bGeigie was part of the Big Bang Data exhibition at the MIT Museum.  Big Bang Data’s aim is to explore where – and how – culture, technology, and society intersect in the digital age. It was initially conceived by the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona (CCCB) and has been travelling the world since 2014. Prior to arriving at MIT, the exhibition has been held in London, Mexico City, Prague, Singapore, and several other cities. A big thanks to Safecast collaborator Hugh Choi for the photos used in this article! 

The bGeigie Diaries: Fukushima’s Christian Connection to Safecast

Heiwa Kataoka could be called Safecast’s divine connection. He is a member of a Christian congregation, and through his work with churches and NGOs has become one of the world’s most prolific bGeigie-builders. Here he shares his Safecast memories and experiences, which began with a visit to his father’s house back in 2011. Your connection with Safecast began with a house visit, didn’t it? Yes, my introduction to Safecast was through Pieter Franken, who visited my family’s house in Aizuwakamatsu city in Fukushima prefecture back in 2011. My father was – and is – a pastor, and our family has been involved with NGO work for a long time. Religious groups are meant to serve communities that have suffered and/or are suffering. And, that is one of the reasons why we became increasingly involved with radiation issues after the Daiichi disaster. Since Pieter’s visit, we have been involved with Safecast and collaborated in different ways. One example is that I made a map of Japan that visualizes the distance between nuclear facilities and Christian churches, as well as kindergartens and nursery schools that are run by those churches. My dream is to deploy Solarcast devices to the churches and institutions near the facilities. I can’t wait to see this perfect combination of Safecast and the Bible verse, John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” What are your memories of the early days of collaborating with Safecast? I think that my memories are tied to the way that Safecast had created a solution that people could build and use in their own areas. For example, my brother attended an early Safecast workshop in Aizuwakamatsu and built his own bGeigie Nano. I remember him coming back to the house with it afterwards and showing it …