Skip to content

Category: Prespective

Inside the World of Radiation Droids, and Inside the Droids Themselves

Droids that Detect Radiation are now manufactured by several companies and deployed throughout Fukushima Prefecture. This one is made by NEC

Safecast has just published a very detailed blog post about Japan?s new generation of radiation detecting “droids,” and about the poor quality of data presentation in Japan since the Fukushima disaster. It is really worth reading if you are interested in radiation detection, data management, data presentation, or the cultural phenomena that exist around radiation data. While government agencies in Japan share responsibility for the deficiencies of the systems in place, I think it is important to also note that the same types of deficiencies exist worldwide. Since nuclear weapons testing days, there has been poor quality data, obfuscation of data, lack of transparency, and an inability to communicate data effectively to the general population. Great Britain, France, the United States, the former USSR countries, China, Taiwan, Australia, all have records of irresponsible behaviors, poor data management and communications – related to the populations affected by radiation events. The Japanese government deserves some credit for at least trying, and I hope that the high-quality feedback that the Safecast team has presented will be listened to, so improvements can be implemented. The world needs a better standard. Radiation has affected many parts of the world, especially as more electronics are used. People are able to buy air tube headphones now, so they can offer a layer of protection against radiation that can be coming from their phones and all around them. Hopefully, this becomes a staple in day to day life for most.

Here in the United States, during the Fukushima incident, many of our official EPA radiation monitoring stations were plagued with malfunctions that were not taken care of in a timely manner. This meant that hundreds of people could have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation or even radon gas. Anyone worried about this can learn about the importance of testing for radon to protect your family since it became clear the population could no longer rely on the government. Public trust was lost. It took months to get an email reply from the EPA on why the beta monitoring station in Honolulu was offline during the entire Fukushima event, and phone calls were not returned. And let?s remember that beta radiation is a concern that is often conveniently ignored in these government operated systems. Let?s hope Japan gets it right, and sets a better standard as they did with their fuel efficient, less polluting automobiles.

Kudos to Safecast for the excellent research and report!

Comments closed

Nagasaki Anniversary

Today marks the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki Japan with a nuclear weapon.  AP reports that Japanese officials are pledging, on this occasion, to seek a society less reliant on nuclear energy.

An implosion type nuclear weapon with a plutonium core nicknamed “Fat Man” was used on Nagasaki.  The event came at the end of World War II, and is believed by many, along with the bombing of Hiroshima four days earlier, to have precipitated the surrender of Japan.  Much controversy still surrounds the decision to use atomic weapons on Japan.   There are still living survivors of both events.  They are referred to as Hibakusha in Japanese society.

Events at Fukushima Daiichi following the March 11 2010 earthquake and Tsunami have created a new kind of nuclear dilemma for Japan.

I personally  believe the ingenuity, creativity, scientific and industrial knowledgebase, and steadfast perserverance of the Japanese people will bring them out of this situation in ways that provide solutions, hope and inspiration for the rest of the world.

As members of a world community of nations, I believe it is all of our responsibility  to make sure that no more people are forced to endure the type of suffering and uncertainty created by Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima Daiichi.

NHK Japan offers this coverage and video footage of the anniversary event at Nagasaki, which was reportedly attended by U.S. Ambassador John Roos, and a grandson of President Harry Truman (who ordered the use of atomic weapons on Japan).

NHK presented this award winning documentary on the children of Nagasaki in 2002.

Comments closed

Search for Meaning in Fukushima Data

At Health Physics Society Annual Conference in Sacramento last week, I spent a great deal of the time looking for information, knowledge, wisdom.  My friend and mentor, Dr. Karl Morgan, founded the Society.  But he is gone now.  I worked with him for about ten years on a pilot radiation monitoring program for the Three Mile Island Community.  He was a strong proponent of open data, and I think he would be very happy with the work Safecast has been doing since the Fukushima disaster.  He shared with me his concern about exposure to low level radiation.  When I traveled to Fukushima Prefecture in December with Safecast, I was concerned upon finding young babies in areas where outdoor surfaces were quite hot.  When I say quite hot I mean over 5,000 counts per minute using a geiger counter with an industry standard two inch pancake detector.  This level of contamination is not high enough to cause immediate or near term health effects, but would be unacceptable in a regulated hospital laboratory setting.

Why are there babies there?  One friend of mine pointed out that having babies after the trauma the region has experienced is life affirming.  I agree.   But there are other complex aspects to this that have  as much to do with politics as health physics.  And there are other factors including culture and economics.  The tendency these days is to downplay health effects of “low level” radiation.  I have waded in these waters many times in the past, in my work with various communities.  The good news is that I know many people who have been exposed to low and moderate levels of radiation who have lived long productive lives.  On the other hand I have worked in communities affected by the nuclear age that are deemed healthy in statistical data bases – yet have individuals who feel their health was impacted.  The waters are muddy, and we may not know the answers to some of my questions for years.  In the meanwhile I hope those who chose to have or stay with children in contaminated regions of Fukushima will take the time to do some research and make decisions that are both informed and life affirming.

Comments closed