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Safecast Report 2016 - Executive Summary


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This is the Executive Summary of Vol.2 of the Safecast Report, released in March, 2016

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Safecast Report 2016 - Executive Summary

  2. 2. 2 This report is not intended to be all things to all people, rather we expect it to be some things to many people. Contained within is a collection of information about Safecast and our activities, as well as the larger situation in Japan. Not everything in here will be interesting to everyone, but we’re tried to anticipate and reply to the most burning questions.
  3. 3. 3 The Safecast Project now spans numerous aspects of en- vironmental measurement. To keep it simple, the key areas where we’re active today are: -- Mobile Radiation Measurement -- Stationary Radiation Monitoring -- Air Quality Measurement & Monitoring -- Sensor R&D -- Data Visualization: maps and apps! -- Activities: workshops, hackathons, talks -- Outreach: sharing, helping, and learning In addition, we will discuss Safecast principles and other- developments: --Open Data (The Safecast API) --Safecast Code — what we stand for and how we (think) we do it --Press & Publicity — highlights and coverage --Volunteers — Safecasters and where you can help --NPO, Funding & Contributions --Always Improving — disclaimers 1.1 Safecast Code In 2014 we published the Safecast Code 1.0, which at- tempts to describe the Safecast ethos through a list of 10 attitudes that guide our efforts. It can be considered our code of conduct, something we use to remind ourselves of our goals and to help us focus our efforts. We try to measure up to the values and attitudes embodied in this list and encourage others to do the same: ALWAYS OPEN — We strive to make everything we do transparent, public and accessible. ALWAYS IMPROVING -We can always do better so use agile, iterative design to ensure we’re always refining our work. ALWAYS ENCOURAGING — We aim to be welcoming and inclusive, and push each other to keep trying. ALWAYS PUBLISHING — Results are useless behind closed doors, we try to put everything we’re doing out to the world regularly. ALWAYS QUESTIONING — We don’t have all the answers, and encourage continued learning and critical thinking. ALWAYS UNCOMPROMISING — Our commitment to our goals keeps us moving closer towards them. ALWAYS ON — Safecast doesn’t sleep. We’re aware and working somewhere around the world 24/7 ALWAYS CREATING — Our mission doesn’t have a comple- tion date, we can always do more tomorrow. ALWAYS OBJECTIVE — Politics skews perception, we focus on the data and the questions it presents. ALWAYS INDEPENDENT — This speaks for itself. These principles incorporate some of the guiding principles promoted by Safecast co-founder Joi Ito <http://www.>. “Deploy or Die” and “The power of Pull” are two that resonate a lot with us. We’re on a mission We’re not saying that “We’re on a mission from God,” but- we do have something to say about openness: We strongly feel that environmental data should be open, easy to access, and easy to understand for everyone Independent opinions about environmental data have to be available. In the age of the Internet of Things, that voice can PART 1: THE SAFECAST PROJECT UPDATE MARCH 2016 Compiled by Pieter Franken (Japan ops), Sean Bonner (Global ops), and Nick Dolezal (visualizations) All text and images in this publication are made available under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license with attribution to SAFECAST, except as noted.
  4. 4. 4 come directly from citizens Official groups such as governments, universities, and companies should publish data about the environment into the public domain via the Creative Commons (CC0) desig- nation and acknowledge the importance of third parties in validating their own data. The Safecast Report You are currently reading the 2nd edition of The Safecast Report, which was published on March 22, 2016, as part of the Safecast Conference 2016 (#SCC2016). The original report was published in March 2015 and opened to public feedback. The 2016 edition integrates much of that feed- back, and adds a significant number of new insights in the situation report (Part 2). WIth the 2016 edition, we also are publishing the report for the first time in Japanese and we expect the Japanese ver- sion to be available during spring 2016. We plan to publish updates on an annual basis. The Safecast Measurement Method One of our goals is to document the Safecast measure- ment method and answer many of the questions (and challenges) we have received concerning that method. Recently Safecast’s first, peer-reviewed, scientific paper has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Radio- logical Protection, a prestigious scientific journal. The paper describes the Safecast methodology and includes a com- parisons with similar initiatives to highlight what makes the Safecast approach unique and effective. The article, which should appear later this year, will mark a major milestone for Safecast as a “citizen science” project gaining recogni- tion in the academic world. In 2016 we will continue the work to document the Safe- cast Method and disseminate it in the most effective way possible. Meet the new Family: Drivecast, Pointcast and Pocketcast! Surprised? Last year, during the SAFECAST Conference 2015, Safe- cast Advisor and original volunteer Ray Ozzie encouraged us to focus on how to best categorize our various projects and devices. The idea was to be agnostic to the type of measurement (e.g. radiation, air quality, water, etc) and group along the measurement format. This resulted into three clusters into which the collection of projects, devices and apps fit: Drivecast - Mobile environmental measurements using a dedicated, stand alone, rugged device. This includes the wide range of bGeigie devices for radiation measurements, and will be expanded to include air quality capable devices. To clarify, Drivecast does not replace the popular bGeigie Nano, rather Drivecast is a classification and bGeigie Nano is one of many devices that falls under that classification. Other Safecast mobile devices are also Drivecast devices. Pointcast - Stationary environmental measurements using a dedicated device installed in a fixed location. This in- cludes devices for radiation measurement and air quality. The original nGeigies are 1st Generation Pointcast devices, and 2nd generation devices are currently in the works. Pocketcast - Mobile measurements using a highly porta- ble device that piggybacks onto mobile device such as a smartphone for processing, geo-positioning and commu- nication. This is currently our least developed classification, as only a few concept prototypes have been built. We recognize the value of these paired devices, however, and hope to see further development of the Pocketcast line in use in 2016. 1.2 DRIVECAST - Mobile Radiation Measurement The Safecast radiation measurement dataset contains over 43 million measurements as of March 2015. Since April 2011, Safecast volunteers have been collecting radiation data using bGeigie mobile radiation sensors. As of March 2016, the size of the Safecast data set has grown beyond 43,000,000 measurements, adding 16 million mea- surements over the past year alone. Over 5 million of these measurements have come from fixed sensors, while the remainder is from bGeigies. There are over 900 registered users, over 50 of whom have logged over 100,000 data points each, 6 of whom have logged over one million each. The number of Safecast detectors deployed (fixed and mobile) is approximately 1000, including over 500 bGeigie Nanos. Almost all major Japanese roads have been measured, with many areas repeatedly measured over time which provides clear evidence of radiation level changes. Addi- tionally, data has been collected from every continent and more than 70 countries, including most of Europe and North America. The Safecast dataset includes data from far corners including Sudan, Iraq, and Antarctica, as well as sites of interest such as Chernobyl, Semipalatinsk, and the Marshall Islands. A significant percentage of the growth of the data set has been from areas outside of Japan. Specifically noteworthy is the growth in Europe where Safecast has gained sig- nificant popularity and we have now a growing network of dedicated volunteers. In Asia volunteers in Taiwan and Hong Kong have added significant data covering cities and countryside. Unique locations on our map now include the Bikini Atoll, and an expedition to the North Pole. We have not seen as much activity in Africa, Russia, China, or Latin
  5. 5. 5 purposes we’re developing both hardwired (ethernet) and wireless (wifi and Bluetooth) options. Local Government Measurement Pro- gram In 2012 we started a program to work with cities in Fukushima to measure an entire city, road by road, to discover hotspots and establish current baseline values. Though many radiation surveys were and are being done in the evacuation zone by the government (see section 2.3 on Environment and Decontamination below), they have been inconsistently done in many towns. Through this program we have measured four cities in Fukushima and are plan- ning to remeasure these cities this year. bGeigie Sharing Program To get better milage from the fleet of existing bGeigies, we are developing a sharing program for bGeigie owners to make their bGeigies available to other volunteers in their communities. Preparations for doing the first trial run in Ja- pan are underway and launch is expected in spring 2016. 1.3 POINTCAST - Sta- tionary Radiation Mea- surement Safecast is deploying a new network of fixed realtime sen- sors. In March, 2015, launched. This new initiative is focused on deploying stationary radiation sensors in Japan and globally. These sensors send re- al-time updates about radiation levels and publish it without interceptions; this data is also open through CC-0. The sensors in Japan will increasingly focus on areas around the Fukushima Daiichi plant, including the exclusion (“difficult to return”) zone. We’re working with volunteers who are in contact with evacuees who have expressed the desire to be able to check the radiation levels at their evacuated houses in realtime. For people living outside of the zone, we will work with volunteers to house the sen- sors. This will be a “pull” model, where we’re dependent on volunteers who are willing to support the initiative. Initially we will deploy dual sensors that house two Gei- ger-muller tubes — one that measures the dose rate equiv- alent (in uSv/h) and one “pancake” tube to measure the combined alpha, beta, and gamma activity in counts per minute (CPM). The sensor unit is manufactured by Medcom America, and we hope to see volunteers cover these over time. Devices The bGeigie Nano is the current workhorse of Safecast’s radiation measurement efforts.Since it was released it in mid-2013, more than 500 bGeigie Nano kits have been deployed. Previous incarnations of the bGeigie included the original suitcase size bGeigie, bGeigie Mini, bGeigie Plus, bGeigie Stealth, and the a one-of-a-kind special deploy- ment xGeigie. We also designed, prototyped, but ultimately abandoned a bGeigie 3. Models prior to the bGeigie Nano were much more labor intensive to build and had a higher individual cost per unit. Creating the scaled-down ( in both price and size ) bGeigie Nano solved Safecast’s device availability problem almost overnight, effectively allowing people from all over the world in any location to become Safecast volunteers, regardless of whether or not they had met other Safecasters in person. bGeigie Bluetooth interface In 2015 the bGeigie Nano was extended with a Bluetooth interface that allows iOS and Android devices to connect and facilitate measurement and upload while on the go. The BLE interface is expected to be available through later this spring. bGeigie Nano solderless version Work is underway to develop a version if the bGeigie Nano for younger volunteers or those uncomfortable with solder- ing, that can be assembled in a few minutes by snapping a few pre-built parts together. We expect this to become a popular model for those that want to just grab a Nano and measure. The first version is due later in 2016. Pocketcast The first prototype of the Pocketcast was put together during the Safecast Conference 2015 Hackathon. The goal is to make a compact device that connects seamlessly with mobile devices and can run for extended periods without the need for recharging. This project is expected to gain renewed focus in 2016. Fixed sensor transform kit While the vast majority of our data comes from mobile de- vices, we have had a strong interest in having a fixed sen- sor network as well, especially from volunteers who own a bGeigie Nano. Many would like to be able to convert this device into a static sensor so it can collect data at home or the office when it’s not being used to collect mobile data. We’re currently developing an additional board that can be plugged into the XBEE header on existing bGeigie Nanos that will allow them to collect continuous data from a static location and automatically upload the readings. For these
  6. 6. 6 International and has been in production for the past 25 years. Sensors will installed outdoors, while the electronics (the Pointcast) will be be located indoors. Currently over 30 realtime sensors have been deployed, and our goal is to deploy 30 to 40 more inside Fukushima over the coming months. This deployment is financially made possible by the Shuttleworth foundation. Devices Pointcast is the hardware platform driving pointcast. The system currently consists of a radiation sensor (Medcom Radius or Hawk) that is connected to a communications box (Pointcast) that relays radiation data realtime to the Safecast API. The initial deployment will focus on getting dense coverage across Fukushima, with some sensors also located in Tokyo and prefectures north of Tokyo. In 2015 we deployed the first batch of 2nd Generation Pointcasts in Japan and US. These were mostly equipped with fixed ethernet connection. Though functional, we found that installing sensors outside poses challenges when connecting power and fixed internet access. In Japan particularly, more and more people have abandoned fixed internet access together with their fixed phone lines, and only use a mobile phone for internet access. Also, most locations in the exclusion zone do not have fixed in- ternet access. To make deployment less dependent on the infrastructure at a site, we decided to put more focus on 3G capable Pointcast devices. Though 3G subscriptions used to be expensive, last year saw the rise of data-only 3G SIM cards, which lowered the costs over 90%. One start-up,, has been very supportive of the Safecast project and is working together with us to further reduce the costs of the 3G hardware and worldwide cov- erage. The next batch of largely 3G-enabled Pointcasts is expected to be deployed in Fukushima in spring 2016, and should double the number of sensors in force. In the meanwhile work is under way to develop the next generation Pointcast. Focus is on a low power solution that can either connect through BLE to a base station inside a house, or use experimental networks such as LoRaWan that have been optimized to consume very low energy. If power consumption can be kept low enough, the system will not require cabling, which will simplify deployment in the field (“drop and forget”). In February 2016, the first LoraWan Pointcast was successfully connected the The Things Network (TTN - an international non-profit group building a LoraWan based network. Safecast and TTN are discussing a partnership to leverage Safecast sensors and the TTN community. NRDC partnership (US) In a collaboration with the NRDC (Natural Resource De- fence Council, Washington DC, US), Pointcast sensors have been deployed on a trial basis in the Washington DC area. In 2016 the goal is to deploy more devices at loca- tions in the US and expand the reach of the network. Safecast 6D One limitation of using Geiger tubes is that they tell us how much radiation is present, but nothing much about the iso- topes emitting the radiation. This is specifically important when measuring food, but this knowledge can also help us under- stand the main contributors to the levels measured in the envi- ronment and to help correctly compute the derived dose rate. In 2014 Safecast volunteers started to work on an new design and sensor selection to augment the bGeigie and nGeigie, which will be able to “see” more dimensions than in the data we currently collect. This project is still in the concept stage. ScanningTheEarth In collaboration with Keio university, Safecast helped deploy approximately 300 radiation sensors across Japan as part of the Scanning the Earth project. The data was broadcast in realtime to a dedicated server hosted at Keio University. Soft- bank/Yahoo, which sponsored the project, shared the data for each location on Yahoo Japan on a dedicated webpage (“Ra- diation Forecast”). This page was regrettably discontinued in 2014, although the network itself remains up and running. One of the limitations of this network is that the sensors are located non-uniformly inside Softbank stores, often in a back room or a closet, and not outdoors, where they would have been more relevant from Safecast’s point of view. The realtime.safecast. org project is building on the experience from this project, and is focused on outdoor sensors and broader community to support the sensors. 1.4 POINTCAST - Air Quality Measurement Safecast’s prototype air quality sensor. While the primary focus of Safecast has been radiation mea- surements, we’ve always intended for the project to grow to include other environmental data. At first glance, air quality has many similarities to the concerns that attracted us to radiation. It’s generally invisible, and except in extreme cases one usually can’t just look outside and see it. Most importantly, no clear, universally accessible, reliable source of data is available, and the data that can be found is often opaque and vague. With radiation we are essentially measuring just one quantity, but air quality in a much broader and more loosely defined concept. A realistic concern in one city might not be so in another, and this has led to much discussion and the constant question of what aspects of air quality and which gases are most import- ant to measure, and for what purposes.
  7. 7. 7 can be easily and anonymously accessed by others and put to demanding analytical tests. “Openness” is not something that can be easily added later, but needs to be integrated into the data collection system from the start, including insuring that there’s a con- sensus among all the participants that it’s a major priority. An open system doesn’t have to cost more than one that’s not, but it does require careful consideration and planning. We recently posted a detailed FAQ about our openness and data access features: 1.6 Data Visualization 1.6.1 Maps When creating maps, our goal is to provide visualizations of the data we collect that are accessible and easily under- stood without compromising detail or accuracy. Perhaps our most accessible visualization endpoint is the Safecast web map. In 2015, some of the improvements we made to it were: -- Responsive design to better support mobile devices and HDPI displays. -- Real-time sensor symbology that dynamically displays their current measurement. -- Custom query support, including aircraft-collected data, via scalability improvements to the bGeigie log viewer. -- Additional content: aggregate historical layers for 2012 and 2013. -- A query tool to quickly display measurement values from the map. -- A transition to 512x512 web map tiles for improved transfer speed, particularly for users with high-latency connections. -- Client-side zoom of web map tiles, allowing for the user to continue viewing a visualization beyond the practical logistical limit of its original resolution. -- Cloud storage of web map tiles via AWS S3 with region- al endpoints in the US and Japan, significantly improving performance for non-US based users while adding redun- dancy and scalability. The primary backend software for the web map -- our own OS X app and Retile -- also saw improvements to better support it, including: -- Further optimizations to output PNG tile filesize. Unlike radiation where there is a clear consensus about which sensors are reliable for specific applications, air sensors are much more diverse and tend to be much less reliable in general. We’ve spent a significant amount of time and money trying to find and calibrate sensors that produce consistent measurements. At SCC2015 we announced a modular Safecast Air Quality prototype pro- duced in conjunction with Pasadena based IO Rodeo. This device is based on the bGeigie form factor, and eventually can be fused with other sensors. Additionally, we’ve been collaborating with the SCAQMD, EDF, NRDC, MIT Me- dia Lab, and Google on air sensors. Particulate pollution, specifically PM2.5, is of global interest and methane, a core greenhouse gas, is an important gas to quantify when considering climate issues. In the 12 months since that announcement we’ve designed and deployed a number of prototype Air Quality devices, with different sensor configurations to test out viability. These devices looked at gases such as methane, ozone, nitrogen monoxide and others. We also looked at partic- ulate in PM10, PM2.5 and PM1.0 sizes. The natural gas leak in the Porter Ranch area outside Los Angeles pro- vided valuable opportunity to field test these devices and helped us decide to use a single sensor per unit direction rather than trying to fit many different sensors into a single housing. We expect to have several versions of tested prototypes that we’re confident of shortly and will soon begin a larger deployment of these sensors. SCAQMD has graciously of- fered to collocate our sensors with their governmental spec sensors which will provide excellent comparison data. 1.5 Open Data (aka The Safecast API) The ability to load specific drives to be visualized has been added to the API. SAFECAST tries to set an example of openness in how we gather and present our data, and to demonstrate what the wider benefits of easy access to open data are for society as a whole. It’s not just a matter of principle, but also one of pragmatism and practicality: we’re convinced that the more open data is, the more useful it becomes. Making everything openly available makes it easy for technically knowledgeable people to investigate our data and test its trustworthiness, and encourages many people to participate. We designed our system and our openness policies with demanding people and skeptics in mind. We wish this were the case for everyone publishing indepen- dent radiation data (or any data, for that matter), but it’s not. There’s no reason for the public to consider “indepen- dent” data more trustworthy than “official” data unless the people publishing it can demonstrate that it’s technically comparable and also more transparent and free of possible bias. We encourage others to start with the assumption that their data cannot be considered trustworthy unless it
  8. 8. 8 -- Hong Kong: once (31 participants, 3 days, biggest ever) -- Limited edition run of green bGeigies for the Shuttleworth Foundation -- 10 devices acquired by OpenOil for use at uranium mines -- Limited edition run of pink bGeigies for Kithub, girls in technology event Educational initiatives begun in 2015: -- France, for high schools, sponsored by environmental NPO IFF-ORME, with support from IRSN -- American School in Japan (ASIJ), including new educa- tional units based on the bGeigie -- Aoyama Gakuin - a new 1-semester course Other presentations at schools in Tokyo area: Seisen HS, British School -- Mori Building Kids Workshop -- KitHub, now bringing the educational initiatives together and making open source course material Exhibitions etc 2015: -- Big Bang Data (Barcelona, London, Buenos Aires, Sin- gapore) -- Taipei Digital Art Festival 1.8 Press & Publicity The Safecast project emerged from the possibilities of the internet age and “runs” on a fabric of social media, the cloud, chat rooms, Slack, etc. Safecast does not spend any resources on advertising, relying instead on word of mouth. However we do get coverage from various types of media regularly, and we see these as endorsements that what we do remains relevant. Over the past years we have been featured, mentioned, or covered in over 150 media publications — printed press, books, TV, blogs, online, etc. (approximately 30 newspaper articles in Japan and abroad, 6 features by major broadcast media, at least 50 mentions in online media, etc.) Contributing to media is a significant activity for Safecast, as it allows our message to be propagated to a larger audience and also helps us to connect to new volunteers. Not only do we appear in articles, we also have become a go-to source for journalists who want to learn about radia- tion and scientific findings relate to the Fukushima disaster, and we have spent countless hours with reporters to share what we know and connect them with relevant people and organizations. We often accompany reporters into the field. We rarely seek coverage, however, and generally wait to be approached. When we feel information could be more accurately and informatively represented, though, we’re not shy about reaching out to journalists with more reliable information as well. -- Various performance improvements, with a focus on reducing server resource usage. -- Code rewrites to support maintainability and unification of the iOS and OS X app codebases. -- Change detection, which reduces daily runtimes by hours and allows for continued future dataset growth. -- Automated cross-region synchronization with AWS S3 cloud storage. In short, we continued to improve our visualizations and tools, as well as their global availability. 1.7 Outreach Activities From the start, we’ve considered events and outreach activities to be an important part of communicating what we are doing, building our community, and training our volunteers. We frequently hold workshops, run hackathons, give talks, and participate in public symposia. We also have ongoing relationships with MIT Media Lab, Keio University, Aoyama Gakuin University, Kanazawa Institute of Technolo- gy, and San Diego State University. A few highlights from the past year have been: -- The Safecast Conference 2015 - SCC2015 - attracted over 500 participants in Tokyo and Koriyama (Fukushima) Expert symposia, academic presentations, etc: -- Ricomet (Ljubljana, Slovenia) -- IRSN, Paris -- Univ Science Po, Paris -- Univ Paris Sud -- Nuclear News Conference, New Delhi -- Risk Communication - United Nations Univ, Tokyo -- Temple Univ Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS)(with Ken Buesseler) -- Gathering for Open Science Hardware at CERN, Gene- va, Switzerland Workshops & Collaboration in 2015: -- Tokyo: about workshops at the Safecast office, one at ASIJ (American School in Japan) -- Fukushima (Koriyama), twice. -- Fukushima (Aizu) -- France: three times altogether -- Taipei: twice
  9. 9. 9 NPO Status & Advisory Board Safecast is a registered, US-based non profit organization. Over the last year we have begun to set up an advisory board. In addition to the US organization, there are plans to regis- ter Safecast as an NPO in Japan and The Netherlands over the coming year to increase scope and outreach. Shuttleworth Foundation Safecast co-founder Sean Bonner was awarded a Shut- tleworth Foundation Fellowship for the year 2014–2015 which, in addition to being a wonderful braintrust and support group, has provided funds to allow us to do the following: -- Daily operation costs, servers, and office rent provided. -- Stationary Sensors Project (nGeigie) — 25 sensors to be deployed in Fukushima -- Visualization — continuation of development of the Safe- cast maps and apps -- We now have new Makerbot Replicators and an Other Machine Other Mills in both Tokyo and Los Angeles, allow- ing us to speed up prototyping and share designs globally. We can have an idea in Tokyo, design a circuit board and case for it, and then simultaneously make exact copies in Tokyo and Los Angeles for testing purposes. This ability trims days and weeks from our design runway. -- The Safecast Conference 2015 was also made possible by Shuttleworth, and enabled us to bring many collabora- tors to Tokyo from overseas. -- Air Quality R&D The Knight Foundation Between 2011 and 2013, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation was the primary funder for Safecast, awarding us several grants to aid with many different aspects of the Safecast mission. Contributions in kind We would like to thank the following companies for offering us help with our office, discounted equipment and services: -- Loftwork -- Medcom International -- Slack -- Adafruit -- Sparkfun -- Pelican Case Though we have historically gotten more media coverage outside of Japan than inside, over the past year Safecast has been well-covered by mainstream media in Japan. There are too many to mention, but we would like to high- light a few recent media appearances, mentions, awards and exhibitions: Press Highlights 2015: -- Nikkei Shimbun (printed edition) 2x -- Asahi Shimbun 20-part series -- NHK documentary (directed by Michael Goldberg) -- The Guardian (series on openness and security) -- Channel News Asia “Danger Zone” -- Al Jazeera (Arduino documentary) -- Nova TV, Bulgaria -- Wissenshaftmagazin (Swiss radio) -- National Geographic - http://voices.national- ence-changed-the-way-fukushima-radiation-is-reported/ -- Makery - ans-apres-fukushima-safecast-attaque-la-pollution-de-lair/ -- Forbes Online -- Die Zeit (Germany) -- The Engineer (Denmark) -- NRC Handelsblad (The Netherlands) -- Open Data Institute online article Reports and Mentions 2015: -- IAEA Fukushima Daiichi Accident Report (They con- sidered us the most noteworthy independent effort and devoted ample space to describing our project) -- Peer-reviewed paper “Radiation Monitoring for the Mass- es” -- Many mentions in academic papers dealing with infor- mation and communication, citizen initiatives, etc. after Fukushima Recent Awards Won: -- 2013 - GOOD DESIGN AWARD, Japan - In 2013 Safe- cast received the Good Design Award for the Safecast Project as a whole. The Good Design Award is Japan’s most prestigious award for what is deemed the leading edge in industrial design. -- 2015 - StarAward For Quality !! OMFG. 1.9 Funding & Support
  10. 10. 10 -- MediaTemple -- Cloud66 -- Kromek (Safecast 6D) 1.10 Always Improving Safecast is the work of volunteers, and is by no means “finished”, “perfect” or “the final word”. Some would say it’s nothing to boast about — lots of work to do! There’s plenty of room for improvement and “wouldn’t-it-be-nice-ifs.” This applies to the Safecast Report as well. The information provided here represents the best data we have found, and the best of our understanding and knowledge, but, as a Dutch proverb goes, “Don’t skate over one-night ice.” We encourage readers and volunteers to check the data and information themselves and form their own opinions about the environment we’re living in. “Is it safe?” is a question whose answer differs from individual to individual. Our daily lives are full of risks, but we shouldn’t let that paralyze us. However, being aware will hopefully allow us to make better decisions, and to focus our individual actions to better improve our environment and our lives. If you see anything you think could be done better, needs fixing, or can be complemented, or if you simply want to help out or to contribute, let us know. And if you want to learn how to make your data open and more useable (as a citizen, company, university, or govern- ment body), we’re here to help. Get in touch: and @safecast on twitter (and if we don’t get back to you quickly enough, please read the previous sections to understand why!)
  11. 11. 11 Part 2: SITUATION REPORT As we noted last year, the Fukushima crisis has been evolving slowly in most respects compared to the situation in 2011. It is less dynamic in terms of new developments which demand emergency action, but it is a continuing situ- ation with continuing hazards. Regardless, it is difficult to keep up with changing circumstances and new information. We’ve gathered a large store of data on issues such as the condition of the Fukushima Daiichi plant itself, the situation for evacuees, environmental consequences of the accident, food risks, and health issues, which we share among our- selves and which help us focus our efforts. Every aspect of this disaster is accompanied by controversy, and we strive to be as open and inclusive as possible. To this end we make a point of listening to experts on all sides. 2.1- Issues at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Powerplant (FDNPP) There are many continuing issues of concern at the Fukushima Daiichi site itself, and how quickly and well they are resolved will greatly influence the ultimate severity of the effects to the environment and to people’s health. The following sections summarize the current status of decom- missioning, removal of spent fuel rods, water problems, and other issues, noting that the information comes almost entirely from TEPCO and for the most part cannot be inde- pendently confirmed. 2.1.1—Decommissioning roadmap Briefly put, everything that is being done now and which will be done on site until the year 2020 is merely preparation for the really hard work of removing the melted fuel debris from the bottom of the reactor buildings. TEPCO’s roadmap has slipped more than once, though the company seems to be basically on schedule so far, but but the work gets much harder from this point forward. Muh of the needed technol- ogy is either untried or does not yet exist. Regulatory over- sight is in place, but we don’t think it’s intrusive enough. Slow progress was made in 2015 on the most challenging issues. 2.1.2— Spent fuel pools TEPCO quieted some critics by safely removing all of the spent fuel from Unit 4 in late 2014. This unit had the most fuel to remove, but the remaining three units will almost cer- tainly be harder. Over a year has passed, and the schedule for removing the remainder has been pushed back. The last fuel pools are now due to start being emptied by 2020. This fuel needs more secure long-term storage than in the common pool onsite, though no progress seems to have been made on preparing a place to put it. 2.1.3—Water problems It’s hard to argue that the water problems we hear so much about at the Daiichi site have gotten better overall since our last report. They remain serious and are an obstacle to starting the other work which needs to be done, and continue to pose potential consequences for the environ- ment and marine life. The influx of groundwater into the site is what poses the greatest problems, and because it has been impossible to map its underground flow, every effort to control it has had unpredictable consequences. The wa- ter problems have forced TEPCO to think ambitiously and innovatively, and though none of the ideas have worked out quickly or perfectly, they appear to be advancing technolo- gy in some areas. Other leaks which have low-tech, easily preventable causes continue to make the news, mainly because they can be easily detected. 2.1.3a—Radionuclide removal systems TEPCO has spliced together several different systems for removing radionuclides from water onsite. These started as an unreliable hack, but have gradually grown and become more reliable, and a modular approach has made it pos- sible to scale up and add new capabilities, and to initiate new technological developments. While breakdowns and poor performance were frequently noted in earlier years, the technology seems to be one of the few major elements of the overall water strategy that is working well now. The inability of these systems to remove tritium, however, means that more tanks will continually be needed to store the treated water, unless new, expensive, and relatively un- tried separation technologies are put in place, or a difficult political decision is made to release it into the ocean. 2.1.3b— Groundwater problems Unless the flow of groundwater int the reactor building basements is stopped, it won’t be possible to carry out the next steps to prepare for removing the melted fuel debris. The planned solution is an ambitious series of underground dams made of frozen soil, and dozens of pumps. All of the work is complicated by the radioactivity of the water and the site itself. The frozen wall is about to be activated, and if it doesn’t work, there does not seem to be a plan “B.” Since our last report, several elements of TEPCO’s ground- water strategy have been put in place, but have generally been less effective than hoped. 2.1.4— Melted fuel removal The process will require decades and the most optimistic scenarios have it starting in 2022. The last time something similar was attempted was over 25 years ago, at Three Mile Island, where melted core removal was completed in 1990 (it has not yet been attempted at Chernobyl). Consequently there are not many people with relevant experience to call on for assistance. A new, well-funded research institute has been established to incubate the kinds of technologies that will be necessary. Meanwhile many systematic attempts at surveying conditions inside the reactor pressure vessels remotely have been made, some which deserve credit for ingenuity. 2.2- Evacuees and Returnees Evacuees’ lives are uprooted, and their grievances are serious and deep-seated. Much of their plight is rooted in hastily made decisions about where to draw lines between the evacuated and those who were allowed to remain — as- suming they wanted to, or would be financially able to leave if they didn’t. At the moment, not many evacuees want to return to their abandoned home towns despite enticements
  12. 12. 12 from all levels of government, but quite a few who lived outside the evacuation zones have returned. Meanwhile, a large disparity in compensation has continued to drive communities even further apart. Since last year another evacuated town has been reopened and the schedule for the reopening of others has been accelerated, while lawsuits by evacuees against TEPCO and the government have proliferated. 2.3- Environment and Decontamination The radioactive releases to the environment from Fukushi- ma Daiichi are unprecedented in many respects, but also comparable to releases from other accidents and from nuclear weapons testing. Radionuclides are both persistent in the environment and mobile, and it’s of paramount im- portance to locate and track them as they disperse through the ocean and migrate into the soil and through water- sheds, to know where to expect food species to be con- taminated and by how much, and where the places where people live will require remediation, or even abandonment. Since our last report, radiation levels have continued to decline overall, while an increasing number of studies have helped clarify the overall movement of radionuclides within the environment and the effects on plants and animals. 2.3.1—Overview The levels of radiation in the post-accident environment do not remain constant, but change over time due to physical decay of nuclides, as well as their mobility within ecosys- tems due to migration into the soil and through watersheds, their dispersion through the oceans, uptake and dispersion by plants and animals, and other processes known collec- tively as “weathering.” In this section we will deal briefly with the most relevant impacts of Fukushima radiation on the environment. 2.3.2 The land environment Odd though it may seem to say it, it was fortunate that only about 20% of the radioactive releases from Daiichi ended up on land. Even that much has caused the displacement of over 100,000 people, and necessitated very costly re- mediation of farmland and living areas. Fortunately as well, most kinds of environmental radiation is not very difficult to detect and map. This is why SAFECAST exists. 2.3.2a Forests About 70% of the fallout that fell over land in Japan ended up in forests. The possibility of decontaminating these vast areas continues to be discussed, but government agencies and other researchers who have conducted experimental forest decontamination concluded that it would be relative- ly ineffective even with a great expenditure of money and effort. Consequently, radionuclides in the forest environ- ment are likely to remain bioavailable to plants and wildlife for decades. Radionuclides have essentially hijacked the watershed, turning it into a cesium delivery system (while delivering smaller amounts of other nuclides as well). Fortu- nately researchers have a lot of experience tracking them in these environments. 2.3.2b Decontamination progress, plans, effectiveness The area needing to be decontaminated is vast. When we investigated the results of the techniques being used in 2013, we concluded that decontamination was only partly effective, and that in many situations it made more sense to wait for natural radioactive decay to take its course. But much of the time it can make a big difference in radioactive exposures and doses, though it rarely eliminates them. The decontamination process has produced vast quantities of waste that needs to be disposed of somehow. 2.3.3 The Ocean The radioactive releases from Fukushima Daiichi to the ocean were huge, but when the radioactive contamina- tion that entered the ocean as fallout during the cold war is considered, the overall amount is not necessarily un- precedented. Many teams of oceanographers have been tracking and sampling the nuclides as they make their way across the Pacific, and predictions they made as early as 2012 about how long it would take the ocean “plume” to reach the coast of North America, and how much cesium would be in it when it got there, have proven to be very accurate. As predicted, the levels throughout the Pacific in general are lower now than they were in the 1970’s. But Fukushima Daiichi is still leaking and major releases of contaminated water cannot be entirely ruled out. Mean- while, the radioactive contamination on the seabed off the Fukushima coast has been mapped. Experts agree that while contamination in marine species has declined signifi- cantly since 2011, only time will reduce the ongoing impact there to truly negligible levels. Close monitoring of the ocean environment is extremely important and will continue to be for years to come. 2.4- Food Keeping contaminated food off the market is essential for minimizing internal exposures to radiation. This risk is chronic because cesium and other radionuclides remain in the environment for years -- decades in many cases -- usually migrating deeper into the soil, and even if the problem appear to be controlled at some point, it is still present. The Japanese government quickly instituted a food monitoring program in March 2011, and in scale and comprehensiveness it has been unprecedented. Not every- thing is checked, however, which is why the appearance of dozens of independent, citizens-run food testing labs all over the country is extremely welcome. Also welcome are independent tests of actual meals being eaten by residents of Fukushima and elsewhere. While the relative paucity of tests for strontium remains a matter of concern, the independent tests tend to support official findings, that less that 1% of the food being produced in Fukushima has above-limit concentrations of cesium, and virtually none of this is finding its way onto the market. Farmers themselves deserve almost all the credit for this. The biggest food risks -- wild mushrooms and vegetables, and wild boar and other game -- are well known, and will continue to pose problems for years to come.
  13. 13. 13 2.5- Health The concern about health damage from radiation exposure, and particularly the vulnerability of children, has made it the single most contentious issue surrounding the Fukushi- ma disaster. Health concerns are the reason people were evacuated, and prompted many families to mistrust official assurances and move away on their own. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the most likely radiation-relat- ed diseases, such as cancer and leukemia, will not appear for years after the exposures, and will only be detected by large-scale, long-term monitoring. The government quick- ly established such programs, and the results so far give cause for cautions optimism. Nevertheless inadequate transparency and poor communication have left many citizens suspicious. The finding of many cases of thyroid cancer in adolescents in Fukushima through mass screen- ing has caused alarm, and a contentious debate between those who claim it is due to radiation exposure and experts who disagree.