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Category: Fukushima

Geiger Counter Evolution – Be Part of the Open Data Revolution

Kickstarter is featuring a new Safecast radiation detector today, July 4, American Independence Day, as part of its Gold program presenting “iconic projects with a twist.” Safecast created something unique in the Geiger Counter World with its Open Source “bGeigie Nano,” which has won much recognition inside and outside Japan, and won a prestigious “Good Design” Award in Tokyo.  The original “Nano” was a kit that required some skill and a soldering iron.   That kit advanced the State of the Art by integrating GPS into the instrument, and by simultaneously rolling out an internet ecosystem to compile and display the data.   Safecast projects have been widely reported on by National Geographic and other respected news outlets.  Safecast is even covered as a model for “surviving our faster future,” in the book “Whiplash” by MIT Media Lab Director, Joi Ito.   While many people have benefitted from kit building workshops, and many more have developed their technical knowledge by participating in the mostly volunteer project, not everyone has the time to build a kit.   The new Raku Nano does not require soldering, so more people can now participate.

Safecast was born during the Fukshima Daiichi reactor melt downs, during a period where reliable and understandable radiation data was largely unavailable.  Safecast is independent and not a political organization, so people of all viewpoints can participate and can see how data is collected and presented.   That in itself is revolutionary, or maybe evolutionary is a better word.  I highly recommend supporting this Safecast Kickstarter Project, which will both advance the radiation detection ecosystem and support a good organization.   There are only seven days left to fund the project, so act fast.

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Safecast Moves Open Radiation Data Movement Forward

Safecast Moves Permanent Radiation Monitoring Stations into Fukushima Prefecture
Safecast Moves Permanent Radiation Monitoring Stations into Fukushima Prefecture

The Journal of Radiological Protection has published a peer reviewed Scientific Article by Safecast members  on the success of Citizen Science in providing radiation data during and after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor melt downs.

Safecast is also expanding its project by deploying permanent monitoring stations in Fukushima Prefecture.

In Washington DC, during the recent Nuclear Security Summit, Safecast collaborated with NRDC and others to promote the role of citizen science in responding to emergencies and potentially in prevention.  More on that here.  NRDC did a great job at organizing events around the Summit.

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From Fukushima

I am in Fukushima today, in the City of Koriyama for a Safecast Conference.

I have traveled here with Safecast people, who have been monitoring the environment for radiation contamination, and posting the data on the internet since 3.11.

Radiation Levels on Bullet Train Tokyo to Koriyama

When you say 3.11 here, everyone knows what you mean, like 9.11 in the U.S. 

The map here shows radiation data I collected on the train from Tokyo to Koriyama.  The levels were comparable with what is normal in California.

Iʻve written a lot about Safecast before.  A lot more can be easily found on the web.

Itʻs 4 years and 12 visits to Japan since I was first nvited – to help provide technical assistance after 3.11.   The whole experience is a big story, not really condensable by me into a blog post.  It has involved a lot of hard work and stress and lack of sleep by a lot of people.  It has also been incredibly enriching.  The people who have shown up to help here are really exceptional.  I think about what that means.  Ordinary people become exceptional when they show up to help their fellow human beings and the environment.  And this group is also very intelligent and technically proficient – and has really fully utilized the power of the internet to respond rapidly.

The people who chose to stay in Fukushima are working hard to recover and make the best of their lives.   Fukushima, I am told, means Happy Island, or Lucky Place.   I guess they are indeed lucky, in that (given the scale of the triple disaster) things could have gotten much worse.  Itʻs important to know that Fukushima is a large prefecture, and only parts of it are contaminated.

Safecast has worked hard for the people of Fukushima and Fukushima people have developed skills and technology to cope with 3.11 aftermath.  Now they are talking about being ready to help others if a disaster should occur somewhere else in the world.

Inspector Koriyama

Professor Kyoshi Kurukowa is with us and speaking on the stage to a large audience as I write this.   Kurukowa – San was asked by the Government of Japan to report on the Fukushima Daiichi event – to the Japanese Diet.  His report said a lot worth paying attention to.  Heʻs a wise man.

One thing he said in the report that sticks with me was that the nuclear accident was man made and preventable.  Not that the earthquake and tsunami was not a huge deal.  But that information that this could happen existed, and the appropriate actions, upgrades and repairs were put off until it was too late.

Dr. Kurukowa is finishing his presentation now, and ends his talk with: “Think about what you can do for the next generations, and do what you can for them.” 

Iʻm sure Safecast will post more about this conference at

The image at left is a reading with a Geiger Counter on a sample of soil under a downspout outside the conference center here.  It shows that, while great progress has been made, clean up will be ongoing.  The conference center itself and parking lot

did not show unusual levels of radioactivity.

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