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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.
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-
--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
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
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.
media.mit.edu/about/principles>. “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
Compiled by Pieter Franken (Japan ops), Sean Bonner (Global ops), and Nick Dolezal
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.
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
Meet the new Family:
Drivecast, Pointcast and Pocketcast!
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
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
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
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
purposes we’re developing both hardwired (ethernet) and
wireless (wifi and Bluetooth) options.
Local Government Measurement Pro-
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-
Safecast is deploying a new network of fixed realtime sen-
In March, 2015, pointcast.safecast.org 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
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
kithub.cc 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.
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
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.
Pointcast is the hardware platform driving pointcast.
safecast.org. 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
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, Soracom.com, 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 - http://thethingsnetwork.org) 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
-- Responsive design to better support mobile devices and
-- 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
-- A query tool to quickly display measurement values from
-- A transition to 512x512 web map tiles for improved
transfer speed, particularly for users with high-latency
-- 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
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
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
-- Hong Kong: once (31 participants, 3 days, biggest ever)
-- Limited edition run of green bGeigies for the Shuttleworth
-- 10 devices acquired by OpenOil for use at uranium
-- Limited edition run of pink bGeigies for Kithub, girls in
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,
-- 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-
-- 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
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-
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
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
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.
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
-- 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
Contributions in kind
We would like to thank the following companies for offering
us help with our office, discounted equipment and services:
-- Medcom International
-- 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
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-
-- Makery - http://www.makery.info/en/2016/03/01/cinq-
-- 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-
-- Many mentions in academic papers dealing with infor-
mation and communication, citizen initiatives, etc. after
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
-- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org and @safecast on twitter
(and if we don’t get back to you quickly enough, please
read the previous sections to understand why!)
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
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-
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
2.3.2b Decontamination progress, plans,
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.
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.
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