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Fukushima Has Turned These Grandparents Into Avid Radiation Testers

Takenori Kobayashi (left) and his wife Tomoko Kobayashi bring soil samples into what they refer to as a “grandma and grandpa lab” to test it for radiation, in Fukushima prefectures

September 11, 2020

Takenori Kobayashi lugs a garbage bag full of soil across a parking lot to an unmarked office. His wife, Tomoko, holds the door to a tiny work space with lab equipment and computers set up. On the edge of Fukushima’s former nuclear exclusion zone, this is the place the couple likes to call their “grandma and grandpa lab.”

It started as a makeshift operation in the city of Minamisoma the year after the 2011 nuclear disaster, when people — mostly elderly — returned to the area and were worried about high radiation levels in their food and soil.

“We’ve given up hope that our children and grandchildren will come back to live here,” Tomoko, 67, says. Most young people decided to start lives elsewhere rather than return, not wanting to take the risks with radiation. “But in order for them to come back and visit us,” she continues, “we need to know everything is safe. So we test it all.”

Citizen science like this flourished in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster in 2011, when a tsunami triggered explosions at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The wind carried radioactive material for miles, covering whole towns and neighborhoods with dangerous, yet invisible, particles. For weeks after the disaster, information was scarce and trust in the Japanese government plummeted. And now, almost a decade later, wide arrays of residents have taken it upon themselves to collect radiation data — from mothers worried about their kids to surfers monitoring beaches to individuals with Geiger counters in their homes — to help regain a sense of control.

Tomoko measures soil into a container that will go through a donated gamma counter, a big cylindrical machine that measures radioactive particles.

Inside the lab, the Kobayashis pair get to work. One measures out soil into small containers, the other starts labeling — so coordinated and practiced, it’s almost like a dance. They put the samples through a donated gamma counter, a big cylindrical machine that measures radioactive particles. Today, they’re testing soil from a nearby farm.

A handful of other residents help run the lab, and throughout the years, experts from nearby universities have come to teach them all about the different equipment and radiation science.

“All the grandparents here are radiation professionals now,” Takenori, 71, says with a smile.

Before the disaster, he was an accountant, and Tomoko helped run a nearby inn that has been in her family for generations. When the disaster happened, they were forced to evacuate for five years. But when they were allowed to come back home in 2016, they reopened the inn — and learned everything they could about radiation.

“We never thought we’d be doing this. What normal person would expect this?” says Tomoko with a chuckle. “But anyone who faces this kind of situation has to become a scientist to survive.”

Tomoko and Takenori were forced to evacuate Minamisoma after the disaster, but after five years, they returned to reopen Tomoko’s family inn.

Takenori points to colorful radiation maps of the area hanging on the wall. The couple made them, along with a team of volunteers, using donated Geiger counters — hand-held devices used to measure radiation — over the past few years as more neighborhoods reopened to the public.

“It is important for us to visualize the invisible,” he says. “We needed to see it.”

The maps show that Fukushima’s radiation levels are decreasing, because of both natural decay of particles and large-scale Japanese government decontamination efforts. But there are still a lot of hot spots — places where radiation is worryingly high. The authorities have tried to ease concerns, testing food in supermarkets and setting up radiation monitors in public parks, outside train stations or flashing along highways, but trust in the government is still extremely low. Many residents say they still feel best collecting information themselves.

Maps hang on the wall of the lab where the Kobayashis do radiation testing. The maps, one part of their work, were created by a team of volunteers who took air measurements. The maps show that the radiation levels in Fukushima are decreasing.

One of the original citizen data operations in Fukushima is called Safecast. The nonprofit organization formed in the immediate days after the disaster, when it became clear that accurate radiation information was not available. Safecast started building and distributing radiation monitors in Fukushima, and then putting all the data online for public use.

Now, nearly a decade later, Safecast has hundreds of devices in the area around the Daiichi nuclear power plant, with dozens of local residents helping to take hundreds of readings a day. There’s even one hanging in the Kobayashis’ inn.

“We found that simply allowing people to take measurements themselves, and have a way to compare it to government data was really important for their peace of mind, for their sense of agency,” says Azby Brown, the lead researcher at Safecast.

Azby Brown is the lead researcher at Safecast, an organization that formed in the immediate days after the disaster. It builds and distributes radiation monitors in Fukushima, and puts all the data online for public use.

Part of the reason people want to collect data themselves and compare it is because even after more information became available, it was often contradictory. The United Nations and the International Commission on Radiological Protection have published reports saying that radiation risks in Fukushima are low. Other organizations, like Greenpeace, dispute those findings. The Japanese government insists that the areas being reopened are safe. But many are quick to point out that the government raised the legal limit of radiation exposure in this part of Fukushima prefecture after the disaster — meaning that many of these areas wouldn’t necessarily be considered safe in other parts of Japan or the world.

Brown says that giving people the ability to collect and understand their own data can help them ease their anxiety and make decisions based on their personal comfort.

People stand near the ocean in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, commemorating the ninth anniversary of the tsunami and nuclear disaster.

“Some people will look at the data and say, ‘Oh my God, I’m leaving,’ ” Brown says. “Other people will say, ‘Oh, you know, it’s not as bad as I feared, maybe I’ll stay.’ And yet others will say, ‘Well, it’s pretty bad, but now at least I know what I’m facing and I know how hard it’s going to be.’ “

That last option is ultimately how the Kobayashis felt when they decided to come back after their neighborhood was reopened in 2016. By that point, Tomoko had gotten a Geiger counter. She remembers how empowering it felt to know and understand the reading. It was low enough for the pair, something they both felt comfortable with.

“I was so relieved,” she says, “I knew I could come home.”

But now, Tomoko says, a new invisible threat has her worried — the coronavirus. She says a lot of the anxiety everyone is feeling now reminds her of how she felt back in 2011. She has stocked up the inn with cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and cloth face masks. But the travel sector has plummeted during the pandemic.

Tomoko stands at the inn in Fukushima prefecture that has been in her family for generations.

“Radiation is a bit similar to the virus,” she says sitting at the kitchen table of her inn. “It doesn’t have any smell, you can’t feel it, you can’t see it.”

Tomoko says she is, of course, aware that the two are very different, but the parallels have been striking to her. She remembers back in March and April, when she saw cities like London and New York looking abandoned and empty on TV. It reminded her of the towns in Fukushima, right after the disaster. It brought back a lot, she says.

“As long as you have a Geiger counter, you can detect radiation,” she says. “But with the virus, there is no Geiger counter.”

Tomoko says, like many of us, she’s eager for science to help find one.


September 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Drone to map radiation within Fukushima plant

27 February 2018
A small drone is to be deployed to measure radiation levels at the damaged reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The UK-developed RISER – Remote Intelligence Survey Equipment for Radiation – has already been used successfully at Sellafield, in England.
RISER undergoing trials - 460 (NDA).jpg
The RISER drone undergoing trials at Sellafield (Image: NDA)
The lightweight RISER drone uses lasers to self-navigate deep inside hazardous facilities where GPS signals cannot reach. It combines two separate pieces of technology: drones and radiation-mapping software. Each received research and development funding through the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and fellow government agency, Innovate UK.
Cockermouth, Cumbria-based computing and electronics engineering firm Createc’s N-Visage radiation mapping software project was boosted during its early stages in 2009 by a GBP50,000 (USD70,000) investment from the NDA’s R&D portfolio.
Three years later, the NDA joined other government organisations to invest further funds in a wide range of innovative nuclear projects. This led to the collaboration between Createc and Bedford-based aerial systems specialist Blue Bear Systems Research. This collaboration led to RISER.
The drone is less than one metre in diameter and navigates using its own internal ‘collision avoidance’ capability. Able to manoeuvre accurately inside complex industrial spaces, data is transmitted to the mapping system and clearly displayed, highlighting areas of contamination, its developers say.
The N-Visage tailor-made technology maps radiation with “pinpoint accuracy, producing a high-definition 3D picture of contamination, quickly and safely”.
After a series of on-site trials at Sellafield, RISER was put into decommissioning action. The drone has been used to collect vital information about conditions in the highly-contaminated Windscale Pile chimney. This data will be used to establish how the chimney can be cleaned out and finally dismantled.
RISER was first used inside one of the reactor buildings at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi plant several years ago, and is now set to return, mounted on the drone.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Drone to Measure Radiation inside Fukushima Daiichi Reactor and Turbine Buildings

n-drone-a-20170910-870x558.jpgThis drone will be used to measure radiation inside the reactor and turbine buildings at the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 power plant.


Drone to measure radiation in tainted Fukushima No. 1 buildings

Tokyo Electric plans to measure radiation in heavily contaminated buildings at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant as it prepares to decommission its damaged reactors, officials at the utility said.

The data from the drone is expected to help Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. create 3-D maps and identify areas of high radiation that workers should avoid.

The drone, 93 cm wide and 83 cm long, has four propellers and can fly for around 15 minutes. Tepco, as the struggling utility is known, expects to use it in the reactor buildings and the turbine buildings.

In February, Tepco tested a drone in the turbine building for the No. 3 reactor, one of three that experienced meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

After improving its performance, it decided to use the drone to gauge radiation but it is still deciding where to start, the officials said.

The government and Tepco want to start debris extraction work in 2021 and are in the process of determining a specific approach for removing the molten fuel from each reactor and updating the decommissioning road map.

Drone to measure radiation inside tainted Fukushima plant buildings

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is planning to use a drone to measure radiation inside heavily contaminated structures as it prepares to decommission damaged reactors there, according to officials of the operator.

Data obtained from its use is expected to help the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., create 3-D maps and identify areas with high-level radiation inside buildings where workers cannot stay safely.

The drone envisioned for the task is 93 centimeters wide and 83 cm long, and, equipped with four propellers, can fly for around 15 minutes. The operator envisions its use inside buildings that house damaged reactors and inside those housing turbines.

In February Tepco, as it is known, tested a drone inside the turbine building for the No. 3 reactor, one of three reactors that experienced meltdowns in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

After improving its performance, the plant operator has decided to put the drone into use for radiation measurement. But it is still considering where it should begin using the machine, according to the officials.

The government and Tepco are aiming to start debris extraction work from 2021, and are currently in the process of determining a specific approach to removing melted fuel from each damaged reactor and of updating their decommissioning road map.




September 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: New Study Shows Full Radiation Risks Are Not Recorded

Today, the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment (STOTEN) published a peer-reviewed article entitled: Radioactively-hot particles detected in dusts and soils from Northern Japan by combination of gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and SEM/EDS analysis and implications in radiation risk assessment. Co-authored by Dr. Marco Kaltofen, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education, the article details the analysis of radioactively hot particles collected in Japan following the Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdowns.

Based on 415 samples of radioactive dust from Japan, the USA, and Canada, the study identified a statistically meaningful number of samples that were considerably more radioactive than current radiation models anticipated. If ingested, these more radioactive particles increase the risk of suffering a future health problem.

“Measuring radioactive dust exposures can be like sitting by a fireplace,” Dr. Kaltofen said. “Near the fire you get a little warm, but once in a while the fire throws off a spark that can actually burn you.”

The same level of risk exists in Japan. While most people have an average level of risk, a few people get an extra spark from a hot particle.

According to Dr. Kaltofen, “The average radiation exposures we found in Japan matched-up nicely with other researchers. We weren’t trying to see just somebody’s theoretical average result. We looked at how people actually encounter radioactive dust in their real lives. Combining microanalytical methods with traditional health physics models,” he added, “we found that some people were breathing or ingesting enough radioactive dust to have a real increase in their risk of suffering a future health problem. This was especially true of children and younger people, who inhale or ingest proportionately more dust than adults.”

Fairewinds’ book Fukushima Dai-ichi: The Truth and the Way Forward was published in Japan by Shueisha Publishing, just prior to the one-year commemoration of the tsunami and meltdowns. “Our book,” Mr. Gundersen said, “which is a step-by-step factual account of the reactor meltdowns, was a best seller in Japan and enabled us to build amazing relations with people actually living in Japan, who are the source of the samples we analyzed. We measured things like house dusts, air filters, and even car floor mats. Collecting such accurate data shows the importance of citizen science, crowd sourcing, and the necessity of open, public domain data for accurate scientific analysis.”

Fairewinds Energy Education founder Maggie Gundersen said, “We are very thankful to the scientists and citizen scientists in Japan, who sought our assistance in collecting and analyzing this data. We will continue to support ongoing scientific projects examining how people in Japan and throughout the world experience radioactive dust in their daily lives.”

The complete peer reviewed report and project audio description by Dr. Kaltofen are available here at the Science of the Total Environment website.

Interactive data and the supporting materials are available here at the Fairewinds Energy Education website.

July 31, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Radiation Measured 16μSv/h at Ground Level in Namie-cho, Fukushima


A residential area of namie-Cho, Namie-Cho, radiation measured 1.3μSv/h at 1 meter above ground and 16μSv/h at ground level


As Japan is trying desperately to use any tactics and resources such as “the cult like” ETHOS to incite refugees to return to their radioactive land, just in time to display the reconstruction of Fukushima to dumb tourists who will visit the prefecture during the next Tokyo Olympics, the reality of things with a Geiger counter and willing citizens paints a total different picture.

This is in Namie cho, a residential district in Fukushima.

What tourist won’t see while traveling Fukushima:

– Tons of highly radioactive waste buried hastily under the grounds of school grounds or abandonned at random on forests or radioactive ash poured into rivers.

– Tons of radioactive waste being burned across incinerators in Japan, spraying dangerous isotopes all over – continuously for the past 4 years.

– Children cleaning up roads of radiation so close to Daiichi – most with no real protection.

– Daiichi sinking, leaking, spewing radiation for 5 years into the ground, the air, rivers and the ocean.

– Contaminated food cleverly being distributed, mislabeled, mixed with non contaminated produces to lower the amount of bequerels and served to children in Japan.

– The discrimination within the prefecture between victims over beliefs or aid money (which no one will soon be able to have access to) and non victims.

– The fear of mothers over their children’s health and future.

Enjoy your Olympics !

Special credits to Oz Yo and Nelson Surjon

January 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Radiation Measuring on Nov. 22, After the 6.9 Magnitude Earthquake


Following the November 22, 2016 earthquake striking at 5:59am, the Tarachine Mothers’ Radiation Lab in Iwaki city Fukushima kept measuring ambiant radiation every hour for the sake of precaution.

According to TEPCO, cooling to the spent nuclear fuel pool for the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant resumed at 7:47 am. It had stopped after the earthquakes this morning.

Radiation measurement 6:30 am on November 22nd, Izumigaoka, Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.05µSv/h measured by PA-1000 Environmental Radiation Monitor Radi.

Radiation measurement 7:00 am on November 22nd, Izumigaoka, Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.05µSv/h measured by PA-1000 Environmental Radiation Monitor Radi.

Radiation measurement 7:30 am on November 22nd, Izumigaoka, Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.05µSv/h measured by PA-1000 Environmental Radiation Monitor Radi.

Radiation measurement 8:00 am on November 22nd, Izumigaoka, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.05 μSv/h, outdoor 0.08μSv/h measured by PA-1000 Environmental Radiation Monitor Radi.

Radiation measurement 8:30 am on November 22nd, Izumigaoka, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.05 μSv/h, outdoor 0.09μSv/h measured by PA-1000 Environmental Radiation Monitor Radi.

Radiation measurement 9:00 am on November 22nd, Izumigaoka, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.05 μSv/h, outdoor 0.09μSv/h measured by PA-1000 Environmental Radiation Monitor Radi.

Radiation measurement 10:00 am on November 22nd, Hanabatake-cho,Onahama, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.06 μSv/h, outdoor 0.08μSv/h measured by ALOKA γSURVEY METER TCS-172 

Radiation measurement 11:00am on November 22nd, Hanabatake-cho,Onahama, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.06 μSv/h, outdoor 0.08μSv/h measured by ALOKA γSURVEY METER TCS-172 

Radiation measurement 12:00am on November 22nd, Hanabatake-cho,Onahama, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.06 μSv/h, outdoor 0.08μSv/h measured by ALOKA γSURVEY METER TCS-172 

Radiation measurement 15:00am on November 22nd, Hanabatake-cho,Onahama, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.06 μSv/h, outdoor 0.07μSv/h measured by ALOKA γSURVEY METER TCS-172 

Radiation measurement 23:15pm on November 22nd, Izumigaoka, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, indoor 0.05 μSv/h measured by PA-1000 Environmental Radiation Monitor Radi.

Source : Tarachine, Mothers’ Radiation Lab, Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture

November 22, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Mother’s Radiation Lab & Clinic in Iwaki, Fukushima

A radiation measuring center organized and run by independent citizens, after being lied, betrayed and abandoned by the Japanese Government.


About them :

Here is the page of Tarachine in English with donation information using PayPal.

Iwaki Radiation Measuring Center NPO “Tarachine”

And some of their participating actions:

Fukushima Children Fund

East Japan Soil Measurement Project of Minna no Data, Dec.2015 to Sept. 2016


October 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Radioactivity Measuring From Hirono to Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture



As a result of the measurement of radioactivity from the town of Hirono to the town of Okuma.

Measurements and vido from Tarachine Medical Center, a citizen organized radiation measuring center located in Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture.

Credit to tarachine Medical Center

September 23, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Citizen science takes on Japan’s nuclear establishment


Joe Moross, center, and Pieter Franken, right, teach Kohei Matsushita how to assemble one of Safecast’s Geiger counter kits at the group’s Tokyo office on July 6, 2016.

As other Tokyo office workers poured into restaurants and bars at quitting time one recent evening, Kohei Matsushita went to the eighth floor of a high-rise for an unusual after-hours activity: learning how to assemble his own Geiger counter from a kit.

Hunched over a circuit board, the 37-year-old practiced his soldering technique as Joe Moross, a former L.A. resident with a background in radiation detection, explained how to fit together about $500 worth of components – including a sensor, circuit board, digital display, GPS module, battery and case.

“My family has a house near a nuclear power plant,” Matsushita said, explaining his motivation. “I want to take this there and collect data, and contribute to this pool of information.”

“This pool” is a stunning set of data – 50 million readings and counting, all logged and mapped on a website anyone can see – collected by volunteers with self-built equipment. Known as Safecast, the group was founded just days after the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown that shocked Japan in March 2011.

Though the immediate threat of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has waned, interest in Safecast’s data has not. The organization, which takes no position on nuclear power, is supported by foundations, grants and individual donations.


Safecast teaches Japanese citizens how to monitor radiation

Volunteers from Safecast teach people how to build geiger counters that are networked together to give them access to realtime data about radiation levels remaining after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant melted down as a result of an earthquake and tsunami.

Part of the growing movement known as citizen science, the idea is to give people the knowledge and the tools to better understand their environment, and make more informed decisions based on accurate information.

Trust in both nuclear power plant operators and the government has not fully recovered since the disaster. As authorities push ahead with the contentious process of restarting dozens of nuclear reactors taken off-line in wake of the disaster, Japanese like Matsushita say a network of monitors controlled by ordinary people could serve as an early warning system in the event of another disaster.

Meanwhile, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration continues with its extensive effort to decontaminate areas around Fukushima Daiichi and reopen evacuated towns and villages, potential returnees say they want a way to verify official numbers that indicate radiation really has dropped to safe levels.

“They want people to come back, but there’s no decontamination in the forest areas and those cover 75% of this village,” says retired engineer Nobuyoshi Ito, 72, who in 2010 opened an eco-farm retreat in Iitate, about 20 miles northwest of the nuclear power plant. Recently, he had Safecast install a radiation monitor at the retreat, which is still in a restricted zone.  “We have to check ourselves.”


Joe Moross straps a GPS-enabled Geiger counter the size of a small brick to the back window of his red station wagon on the outskirts of Tokyo and begins a 16-hour day driving north through the most contaminated areas around the Fukushima nuclear plant. In the last five years, he calculates he’s driven 90,000 miles gathering data for Safecast.


Joe Moross has driven 90,000 miles gathering data for Safecast. A Geiger counter equipped with a GPS module hangs from the back window of his station wagon.


Through a Bluetooth connection, he can monitor the Geiger counter’s readings on his cellphone as he goes. But he also keeps a mental log of more qualitative signs of the region’s transformation.

“That 7-Eleven reopened in 2014,” he notes as he nears the town of Tomioka. “That Family Mart came back in 2015.” In the town of Naraha, he gasps. “That’s the first rice growing in the fields here in five years!”

Along the way, he passes several dozen fixed-point radiation monitors installed by the government along the roadsides. Their solar-powered, digital displays provide readouts in microsieverts per hour (μSv/hr); today’s show relatively low readings from 0.1 to 3.8 between the towns of Hirono and Minamisoma. That is less than what one would be exposed to on a long flight, although that exposure lasts only as long as the flight.



A roadside sign installed by the Japanese government south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant displays radiation readings.

Moross’ much more granular, mobile data, recorded every five seconds and uploaded to the Web the next day, generally matches the government signs, though when passing near the Fukushima plant, Moross’ counter produces readings above 4 μSv/hr. (Not long after the disaster, Safecast found readings higher than 30 in the region).

In the town of Iwaki, Moross drops in on Brett Waterman, a 51-year-old Australian who’s been teaching English in the area for 11 years and was having some technical issues with a Safecast monitor.

“Like most people, I knew nothing about radiation” when the disaster hit, says Waterman, who acquired an early Safecast Geiger counter through Kickstarter and has since upgraded to more sophisticated models as the group has refined its designs. Waterman says the data indicate Iwaki is now safe, but it’s important to keep generating frequent readings to provide a reference of what’s “normal” in case circumstances change.

Safecast holds regular sessions for adults to teach them to assemble their own devices and is planning a kids’ workshop as well. Plans and directions for building the devices are also available online for free. Organizers say that people who build their own monitors are much more motivated to use them.

“If they just buy one, they may use it once, throw it in a drawer and never upload any data,” says Moross. “If they make it themselves, they’re more invested.”


Safecast’s tiny Tokyo office feels like a combination tech start-up, old-school shop class, and comedy club for middle-aged expats. As Moross inspects Matsushita’s soldering progress, English teacher Jonathan Wilder, 59, is busy gathering switches, resistors, batteries, and sensors and parceling them out into plastic bags that will become kits for Safecast’s current workhorse Geiger counter, known as the bGeigie Nano.  

Moross and Wilder trade jokes as Azby Brown, 60, an expert on traditional Japanese architecture, sits at another table typing up news for the group’s blog; he has just led Safecast’s efforts to publish its first scientific paper, in the Journal of Radiological Protection. Pieter Franken, a Dutch expatriate and chief technology officer for a large securities firm, looks over some materials for the group’s upcoming kids’ workshop.

“Safecast is an interesting social experiment, in a fairly anarchistic kind of way,” says Franken, one of the group’s founders. “It taps into trends including maker-spaces, the Internet of things and even artists. We attract people who want to break out of the traditional way of solving problems.”

Safecast grew out of an email conversation among Franken, L.A.-based tech entrepreneur Sean Bonner and MIT Media Lab director Joichi “Joi” Ito immediately after the March 11, 2011, disaster. As the Fukushima crisis unfolded, Safecast’s effort to produce and distribute Geiger counters and collect data snowballed, drawing in more expertise and volunteers. The group has successively iterated smaller and smaller Geiger counters with more functionality for data collection.

In the last five years, Safecast volunteers have taken radiation readings all over the world, from Brisbane, Australia, to Santa Monica. The group is also working on monitoring air quality in Los Angeles and elsewhere; recently, volunteers took methane readings around Porter Ranch during the gas leak there. Now, Safecast is trying to figure out how to depict that kind of data meaningfully online.

Moross says the potential applications for citizen-based environmental monitoring are vast, pointing to incidents such as the recent scandal over the lead-tainted water supply in Flint, Mich., as an example of where deeper community-based scientific knowledge could have improved debate and policymaking.

“Flint and Fukushima have parallels,” says Moross. “Democracy should start from facts, and we need to give citizens facts to understand what’s happening.”

Safecast has taken heat from both pro- and anti-nuclear activists, Brown says. “But if people spend some time with us, they find we are valuable.” Even Japan’s postal service has cooperated with Safecast, putting its monitors on carriers’ motorbikes in some towns and gathering data.

Safecast’s goal now is, essentially, “base-lining the world,” says Franken, crowdsourcing environmental data from every corner of the Earth.

“We should start with measuring our environments,” he says. “Then we can talk about things like global warming and air pollution; from there, activism can start. Once you know, for example, that your street is polluted, you can start to make a change. That’s where we can make a difference.”

July 27, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Living with radiation in Fukushima



In Iwaki city, Fukushima, the Tarachine “screening center” is a fully independent citizen laboratory, well equipped and employing qualified technicians to help the Fukushima population with anything involving radiation measuring or contamination testing.



For a minor fee people can come to the Tarachine screening clinic to have their foods tested, but also their house lot soil tested, or even the vacuumed dust of their house tested.



The Tarachine screening center fulfill a very important role for the Fukushima families, as families do not have the means to acquire all the necessary expensive equipment nor the technical qualifications.



As the Japanese government does not provide such vital service nor could be trusted with radiation measure numbers, some citizens organized themselves to set up such laboratories. There are at present about 100 such laboratories which have spread up, but Tarachine is certainly the most efficient and fully equipped for various types of radiation measures.

For example, since in a lot of places very young children cannot anymore play outside safely, but are kept to play indoors, it is therefore vital for the mothers to constantly control the level of contamination inside their house,  thus they bring to the Tarachine center their vacuumed dust to be measured.



As an example this mother having brought her house vacuumed dust to be analyzed learned that it is contaminated by 4400 Bq/kg of Cesium 137, 718 Bq/kg of Cesium 134 and 1950 Bq/kg of Potassium 40, thus a total contamination of 5158 Bq/kg. The levels of Cesium 137 and Cesium 134 have too high, 4 times higher than the advised contaminated threshold and could therefore be harmful to the persons living in that house, especially  for children.




As a comparison, you may see vaccumed dust from 3 different locations, one in Iwaki, Fukushima, one in Chiba, nearby Tokyo, and one in Vancouver, British Columbia,Canada:

Vacuum House Dust in Fukushima (Iwaki)
Cs 137 4440 Bq/kg
Cs 134 718 Bq/kg
Vacuum House dust in Chiba (Makuhari)
Cs 137 137Bq/kg(± 2%)
Cs 134 27Bq/kg(± 5%)
Vacuum House dust in Vancouver, BC
Cs 137 <1.08Bq/kg
Cs 134 <0.86bq/kg


The Japanese government during the past 5 years has constantly lied to the Fukushima population about the harmful radiation risks, condemning the people to stay and live with radiation. Consequently citizens have learned to rely only on their own for radiation measuring and protection.

Contact adress: Tarachine Screening center

Onahama hanabatake-cho 11-3, Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

Tel: 0246‐92‐2526





June 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

NRA criticizes Asahi story on radiation dose monitors


This radiation dose monitoring post, installed about 21 kilometers from the Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, can only measure radiation doses up to 80 microsieverts per hour.

The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority on March 16 criticized an Asahi Shimbun story on radiation dose monitors around the Sendai nuclear power plant, saying it is misleading to residents near nuclear facilities.

The NRA demanded that The Asahi Shimbun explain the news-gathering process that led to the March 14 story headlined, “Half of the radiation dose monitoring posts around the Sendai nuclear power plant cannot measure levels that serve as criteria for evacuation,” in the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.

“(The article) is criminal in the sense the content fanned unnecessary anxieties among municipalities hosting nuclear power plants and people living around them,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of NRA, said.

The article, carried in the morning edition, said 22 of the 48 monitoring posts installed in the area between 5 kilometers and 30 km from the Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture can only measure radiation doses up to 80 microsieverts per hour. That means these posts are incapable of measuring doses of 500 microsieverts per hour, the criterion for judgments on issuing evacuation orders to residents immediately after a nuclear accident.

“It is not a problem that only half of the monitoring posts can measure (500 microsieverts) and the other half cannot do so,” Tanaka said. “What is important is whether those monitoring posts are sufficient for us to judge (whether to order evacuations) through monitoring.”

On the evening of March 15, the NRA released a statement on its website, saying, “There is a possibility that (the article) will cause misunderstandings.”

The statement said monitoring posts that can accurately measure low radiation doses and monitoring posts that can measure high radiation doses are installed in combination, so the mechanism to judge whether to issue evacuation orders has been “put in place.”

The NRA statement also said, “We recognize that it is important to continuously enhance monitoring systems for emergencies.”

In addition, the NRA took issue with a comment from the nuclear watchdog that appeared in the article.

“Our staff never said what was written,” the NRA said.

It demanded that The Asahi Shimbun explain whether the comment was a fact.

The Asahi Shimbun carried the article to enhance local governments’ evacuation systems as much as possible.

“As for the article, (our reporters) interviewed NRA executives several times,” the newspaper said in a statement.

* * *

Asahi’s stance on the issue

The Asahi Shimbun believed that, in the case of radiation doses rising sharply after an accident at a nuclear power plant, 500 microsieverts per hour will become an important barometer on whether to immediately evacuate residents living in the area between 5 km and 30 km from the plant.

Therefore, the newspaper focused on whether equipment that can measure 500 microsieverts per hour has been put in place.

After the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the government revised its guidelines to deal with nuclear disasters. The government decided that people living within a radius of 5 km from a nuclear plant would have to evacuate immediately if an accident occurs.

For people living in the area between 5 km and 30 km from the plant, the government decided that they would have to stay indoors, and a judgment would be made on whether to issue evacuation orders to them after checking the radiation doses measured by monitoring posts.

The government decided that if a level of 20 microsieverts per hour continues for an entire day, it will instruct those residents to evacuate within a week. However, if the radiation doses reach 500 microsieverts per hour, the government will instruct them to evacuate immediately.

This year, The Asahi Shimbun asked 21 prefectures that are obliged to compile evacuation measures for residents about the installation of monitoring posts in the area between 5 km and 30 km from a nuclear plant.

With the exception of Kagoshima Prefecture, where the Sendai nuclear plant is located, 20 prefectures have installed or plan to install monitoring posts that can measure up to 500 microsieverts per hour in all or most of the spots.

Prefectural government officials said that in the accident in Fukushima, the area of high radiation doses spread widely and that it is a matter of course that the monitoring posts can measure up to 500 microsieverts.

Others said that making it possible to measure up to 500 microsieverts will lead to relief and safety of the prefecture’s people.

Officials of prefectural governments have made such remarks because of the accident that occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Radiation doses could differ drastically in spots that are several kilometers away.

In the initial stage of the Fukushima disaster, measuring radiation doses while moving in a car was inadequate due to a shortage of gasoline and other reasons.

In a complex disaster combined with an earthquake or other factors, there is a possibility that measuring equipment cannot be transported because of damage to roads.

The 48 monitoring posts that are installed in the area between 5 km and 30 km from the Sendai nuclear plant are positioned so that they can be used to make judgments on evacuations from each district.

As for the Sendai nuclear plant, an NRA official in charge of the issue revealed to The Asahi Shimbun this month that when the government “approved” the evacuation system around the plant in 2014, prior to the restarts of its reactors, a then division chief of the NRA strongly asked the Kagoshima prefectural government to expand its monitoring system.

As for the current situation of monitoring systems, the NRA is also looking into the installation and capabilities of monitoring posts around nuclear power plants throughout the country.

March 18, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

The mothers who set up a radiation lab


Five years ago an earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami and a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Kaori Suzuki’s home is nearby – determined to stay, but worried about her children’s health, she and some other mothers set up a laboratory to measure radiation.

A woman in a white lab coat puts some yellow organic material on a slide, while grey liquid bubbles in vials behind her. Other women, one of them heavily pregnant, discuss some data on a computer screen. A courier delivers a small parcel which is opened and its contents catalogued.


But this is no ordinary laboratory. None of these women trained as scientists. One used to be a beautician, another was a hairdresser, yet another used to work in an office. Together they set up a non-profit organisation – Tarachine – to measure radiation in the city of Iwaki, 50km (30 miles) down the coast from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Kaori Suzuki, the lab’s director, shows me a list of results. “This is the level of strontium 90 in Niboshi, dried small sardines, from the prefecture of Chiba,” she says.

“What about this food?” I ask, pointing out a high number.

“Mushrooms have higher levels [of radiation]. The government has forbidden people from eating wild mushrooms, but many people don’t care, they take them and eat,” she says.

The lab mainly measures the radioactive isotopes caesium 134 and 137, and collects data on gamma radiation. Strontium 90 and tritium were only added to the list in April last year. “Since they emit beta rays we weren’t able to detect them until recently. Specific tools were necessary and we couldn’t afford them,” says Suzuki. Thanks to a generous donation, they now have the right equipment.

Tarachine publishes its findings online every month, and advises people to avoid foods with high readings as well as the places they were grown.


Five years ago, Suzuki knew nothing about radiation. She spent her time looking after her two children and teaching yoga. The earthquake on 11 March 2011 changed everything.

“I’ve never experienced so much shaking before and I was very scared. Right from the moment it started I had a feeling that something might have happened to the nuclear plant,” she says. “The first thing I did was to fill up my car with petrol. I vividly remember that moment.”

The authorities evacuated the area around the nuclear plant – everyone within a 20km (12-mile) radius was told to leave, and those who lived up to 30km (18 miles) away were instructed to stay indoors. Despite living outside the exclusion zone, Suzuki and her family fled and drove south. The roads were congested with cars and petrol stations ran dry.

“We didn’t come back home until the middle of April and even then we wondered if it was safe to stay,” says Suzuki. “But my husband has his own business with 70 employees, so we felt we couldn’t leave.”


Although radiation levels in Iwaki were officially quite low, the “invisible enemy” was all people could talk about. Conversations with friends changed abruptly from being about children, food and fashion, to one topic only: radiation. “You can’t see, smell or feel it, so it is something people are afraid of,” says Suzuki.

Above all, people didn’t know what was safe to eat.

“It was a matter of life and death,” she says.

Fukushima is farming country and many people grow their own vegetables. “People here love to eat home-grown food and there’s a strong sense of community with people offering food to their friends and neighbours,” says Suzuki. This caused a lot of anxiety. “A difficult situation would arise where grandparents would be growing food, but younger mothers would be worried about giving it to their children.”

Suzuki formed the group “Iwaki Action Mama” together with other mothers in the area. At first they organised demonstrations against nuclear power, but then they decided on a new tactic – they would learn how to measure radiation themselves.


They saved and collected $600 (£420) to buy their first Geiger counter online, but when it arrived the instructions were written in English, which none of them understood. But they persevered and with the help of experts and university professors, organised training workshops. Soon they knew all about becquerels, a unit used to measure radiation, and sieverts, a measure of radiation dose. They would meet at restaurants and cafes to compare readings.

Becquerels and Sieverts

•A becquerel (Bq), named after French physicist Henri Becquerel, is a measure of radioactivity

•A quantity of radioactive material has an activity of 1Bq if one nucleus decays per second – and 1kBq if 1,000 nuclei decay per second

•A sievert (Sv) is a measure of radiation absorbed by a person, named after Swedish medical physicist Rolf Sievert

In November 2011 the women decided to get serious and set up a laboratory. They raised money and managed to buy their first instrument designed specifically to measure food contamination – it cost 3 million yen (£18,500, or $26,400).

They named the laboratory Tarachine, after a strong female character in Japanese theatre who speaks the language of Samurai warriors. “We felt as though we were on the front line of a battlefield,” says Suzuki. “When you’re at war you do what you have to do, and measuring was the thing we felt we had to do.”


Today Tarachine has 12 employees, and more work than it can handle. People bring in food, earth, grass and leaves from their backyards for testing. The results are published for everyone to see. At first the lab was able to provide results after three or four days, but its service has become so popular it can’t keep up. “We have so many requests now that it can take three months,” says Prof Hikaru Amano, the lab’s technical manager.

Amano confesses he was surprised that a group of amateurs could learn to do this job so accurately, but says it is important work.

People began to mistrust the nuclear contamination data provided by the government and by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which manages the nuclear plant, he says.

About 100 so-called “citizen laboratories” have since sprung up, but Tarachine is unusual because it monitors both gamma and beta rays – most can only measure gamma rays – and because it tests whatever people want, whether it’s a home-grown carrot or the dust from their vacuum-cleaner.

The government does take regular readings from fixed points in Fukushima prefecture. It also check harvests and foods destined for the market – for example, all Fukushima-grown rice is required to undergo radiation checks before shipping.

But “if you want to know the level of strontium and tritium in your garden, the government won’t do this measurement,” says Suzuki. “If you decide to measure it yourself, you’ll need 200,000-250,000 yen (£1,535, or $2,200) for the tests, and ordinary people can’t afford to pay these costs. We have to keep doing this job so that people can have the measurements they want.” Tarachine only charges a small fee – less than 2,000 yen (£12, or $17).


Mother of two Kaori Suzuki now spends much of her time at the laboratory

Tarachine also provides training and equipment to anyone who wants to do their own measurements. “Some of the mothers measure soil samples in their schools. It’s fantastic, they really have become quite skilled at doing this,” says Suzuki.

And the group keeps an eye on children’s health. It runs a small clinic where doctors from all over Japan periodically come to provide free thyroid cancer check-ups for local children. Since screening began, six months after the meltdown, 166 children in Fukushima prefecture have been diagnosed with – or are suspected of having – thyroid cancer. This is a far higher rate than in the rest of the country, although some experts say that’s due to over-diagnosis.

And for parents who want to give their children a break from the local environment, Tarachine even organises summer trips to the south of the country.

Suzuki’s own life has changed dramatically since 2011. “I was just a simple mother, enjoying her life. But ever since I started this, I’ve been spending most of my time here, from morning to night,” she says. “I must admit, sometimes I think it would be really nice to have a break, but what we are doing is too important. We’re providing a vital service.

“If you want to have peace of mind after an accident like the Fukushima one, then I believe you need to do what we’re doing.”


An addition to this article, thanks to Beverly Findlay-Kaneko:

The article missed an important point that has news value. Tarachine is trying to expand their health clinic to include more services, including cataract screening for children. This video is in Japanese, but you can see what the inside of their operation looks like.


March 13, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment