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 …


Almost seven years have passed since 3 · 11, and while we’ve been informed that the decommissioning of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will take 40 more years, we wonder what will Fukushima look like 50 years after that, in 2111. To consider those questions, we will hold the Safecast Conference In Fukushima SCC2017, titled “Super Presentation: Environment, IOT, Open Data. Citizen science for Fukushima of the 22nd Century.” As our main speakers, we invited Safecast Advisor Ray Ozzie, former CSA of Microsoft, and Tamagawa Ken, president of Soracom, to discuss what they envision for Fukushima 100 years from now. Please join us!    

Ruthenium coverup continues

Several days ago, we published our first blog post about the notable release of Ruthenium-106 that was detected in Europe in late September-early October of this year. As we noted, detections of Ru-106 were confirmed by over 30 countries, and careful analyses performed independently by the national laboratories of France, Germany, and the Czech Republic all pointed to the southern Urals as the likely origin of the release. From the outset, the accident-prone nuclear processing facility at Mayak, in the Chelyabinsk region in the southern Urals, was considered a prime suspect. But Russian authorities vehemently denied that any unusual levels of Ru-106 had been detected in that country, or that Russia was in any way responsible. Yesterday Russia came clean. Sort of. Specifically, the Russian meteorology service Rosgidromet issued a statement (in Russian) that levels of Ru-106 up to 986 times the normal background level had been detected in that country in September (helpful English-language news articles here and  here). The highest levels were detected in Argayash, about 20km from Mayak. An 11-page Russian-language bulletin containing measurements from dozens of locations in Russia in September surfaced online shortly afterward. Nadezhda Kutepova, a Russian activist who has clashed with authorities because of her work on behalf of workers and the public in Mayak, was forced to flee to France in 2015; she issued a detailed statement from Paris on November 21st in which she gave plausible reasons why the Ru-106 release was likely due to a malfunctioning nuclear waste glassification system at Mayak. Spokesmen from Mayak, however, continue to deny that the facility is in any way responsible. No other nuclear-related facility in Russia has claimed responsibility yet either. It is difficult to accurately gauge the seriousness of possible health consequences of this release without more detailed information from the site …

The Bgeigie Diaries: Daiichi and the Dutch connection

Rob Oudendjik is one of the very early Safecast members. He was involved in many of the projects that laid the foundation for the current generation of bGeigies, as well as the way that Safecast gathers its data. He shares his memories of the early Safecast days, as well as what keeps him involved six years after the disaster at Daiichi. You were in Japan at the time of the disaster. I wondered if you could share how your initial connection to Safecast came about? That would be through my fellow Dutchman Pieter Franken, who I got to know through a system we were working on for the Dutch Embassy that would help give updates to and about Dutch people in Japan in case of an emergency. It worked as a message chain that would ask people is they needed help or if they were OK. One of the things that we discovered in 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami was that SMS worked much better than other things like trying to contact people through satellite phones. This was partially because much of their bandwidth was suddenly occupied. As a result, a big chunk of the satellite communications system was suddenly unavailable. However, Skype and SMS worked fine. I think it is an example of how difficult it can be to be technically prepared for a disaster like the one in 2011. The knock-on effects can be very difficult to predict. What are your memories of those early days after the disaster struck? The day after the earthquake, my partner Yuka and I got a call from a Dutch journalist who asked if we could help him getting into and around in the Fukushima area. We agreed and we went off together. I also knew that Pieter’s family in law …

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, …

Safecast Report 2017, Part 2.1 now available

The second installment of the 2017 Safecast Report is now available for download. Part 2.1: Situation Report — Issues at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Powerplant (FDNPP) is a 66-page A4-size print-quality pdf that provides a detailed description of conditions at the damaged powerplant. Sections are devoted to the overall plans for decomissioning, the spent fuel pools, contaminated water issues, the search for melted fuel debris and plans for extracting it, and other issues of importance. It begins with an 8-page introduction that describes the available sources of information, official and otherwise, and their relative credibility. Part 1- The Safecast Project Update can be downloaded here. New sections dealing with evacuees, the environment, food, and health will be available soon. 2017 Safecast Report Part 2.1: Situation Report — Issues at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Powerplant (FDNPP): Direct download On SlideShare (login required for download) Safecast Report Page, with links to both current and previous editions of the report.  Alternate download page.  

Safecast Bay Area Network kick-off

Pieter Franken and Sean Bonner are visiting the Bay Area and will be in Palo Alto on November 2nd. We thought it would be a great occasion to organize a first informal Bay Area Safecast meetup. Please join us for this opportunity to meet other Safecast volunteers in our region, get an update on the latest news, and brainstorm together on how we can put some of this Silicon Valley brainpower to good use for our favorite open data non-profit. Oh, and share ideas on what sort of exciting Drives we could organize in California too. We will do a deep dive into Solarcast, the new Safecast device that monitors not only radiation, but also air quality, and which is being rolled out on the US West coast right now. Address: Innovation Factory, 2595 E Bayshore Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303 Time: 5:30 to 7:30pm

Safecast Summer Workshops Take Off In a Big Way – Especially with Kids

Safecast workshops were a whirlwind of activity in the late summer months with a series of events, many of which were for kids and families. One of the season’s highlights was the third Safecast Mori Kids’ Mirai Summer Camp Workshop on Radiation, held in Tokyo’s famous Roppongi Hills. The event took place over two sold-out days where groups of 20-25 kids got an introduction to the basics of radiation, radiation measurement and building electronics. The children built their own Geiger counters, and also used bGeigies to measure radiation levels in the surrounding areas. Safecast would like to thank Mori Building and the people working there for their great support and help during this and past events. A special thanks should also go to Mariko at Loftwork Tokyo for helping coordinate everything and to volunteers like Joe, Azby, Kiki, Rob and Yuka for helping out at the event itself. Safecast was also in Hong Kong for two days of workshops at the Youth Square Centre, one of the biggest youth centres in the country. The workshop included special guest appearances from long-time Safecast friends, volunteers and collaborators. Cesar Harada showcased his modified bGeigie setup that has been used to measure radiation levels in sea and riverbeds around Fukushima while artist Chris Cheung Hon Him talked about his virtual city-scape based on the Safecast data. Safecast, STEM and engaging communities     In July, Safecast was in Seoul, Korea for two great workshops at the by all means impressive Hardware Accelerator N15. This maker space was the ideal venue for the around 20 participants to build bGeigies and learn about citizen science the Safecast way with hands-on kGeigie kits and measuring Seoul. A total of eight new bGeigies left the shop floor, ready to do radiation measurements. A big thanks to Safecast …

Data for Development

Safecast was happy to be asked by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) to contribute a case study about our project to their new publication, Case Studies on Data for Development. The case study collection is part of the OECD’s larger 2017 Development Co-operation Report: Data for Development. The authors note: With the unfolding data revolution, developing countries and donors have a unique chance to act now to boost data production and use for the benefit of citizens. This report sets out priority actions and good practices that will help policy makers and providers of development assistance to bridge the global data divide, notably by strengthening statistical systems in developing countries to produce better data for better policies and better lives. The volume has just been published, and is a free download. In addition, summaries are available in 26 languages. Case Studies for Development includes 45 case studies in fields including education, employment, finance, health, gender equality, and the environment. Safecast’s chapter is entitled, “Engaging citizens to collect and disseminate data on the environment: Lessons from the Safecast data initiative.”  We’re happy to be recognized by this influential organization, and hope that others will be inspired by our experience.   OECD Development Co-operation Report 2017 main page Case Studies on Data for Development, direct download  

The bGeigie Diaries: Tokyo to Fukushima after the disaster

If there was a list of unsung Safecast heroes, Kyoko ‘Kiki’ Tanaka would be one of the first names on it. Kiki has been a core member since shortly after Safecast began, running the office side of the operation for a long time, and coordinating our Japanese volunteers. I spoke with her about some of her memories from the early days of Safecast, the Tokhoku earthquake, and why she continues to work with Safecast six years after the Daiichi disaster. What are some places you have gathered radiation data? In the immediate aftermath of Fukushima, I surveyed the neighbourhood in Setagaya ward where I was living at that time. I also surveyed areas in Tohoku near Fukushima Daiichi when I was working there as a fixer for journalists. What is the last place you have gathered radiation data? Maybe inside Fukushima, including areas like Iitate, Tomioka, Koriyama, and Fukushima-city. I was up there last year with media people. You were in Tokyo the day of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. What are your memories of that day? I was working at home that day, and although it might sound strange to people outside of Japan, I was kind of expecting that we were going to have an earthquake. A few days before, there had been one up around Miyagi, and they tend to come in series. It quickly became clear that this one was different, though. Most of the time, earthquakes start quite strong and then fade out over time. This one just kept building and building – and continued for a long time. As it got stronger, the things in my cupboards started moving around, and some of them fell out. I headed outside, like we are taught to do during a quake. My house is in the middle of …