- Created on Monday, 24 October 2011 22:58
- Written by Administrator
- Hits: 581
On June 16th, Joe Moross from Safecast Japan (http://blog.safecast.org/) and I headed up to the Fukushima region on a trip with dual purposes: to deliver geiger counters to two orphanages in Fukushima and Soma and also to monitor environmental radiation over the course of our trip. The geiger counters for the orphanges had been originally requested by Michael Maher-King of Smile Kids Japan; two for Fukushima Aiikuen (福島愛育園) and one for Soma Aiikuen (相馬愛育園). Safecast Japan were kind enough to provide the geiger counters and, in addition to the deliveries, Joe and I took the time to drive some of the backroads to gather radiation readings. The route that we took is shown here:
Route taken on June 16th, 2011
Joe lives in Chiba so the first stop was his house and the installation of a bGeigie on my car. Finding Joe's house took an eternity but the installation of the bGeigie was straightforward. The bGeigie hooked up to a laptop which, in turn, ran from the cigarette lighter outlet so it was quickly installed and working.
Here is a picture of an official Safecast Japan (http://blog.safecast.org/) vehicle with two bGeigie's and a video camera attached. The bGeigies were handmade by members of Safecast Japan in conjunction with assistance from the Tokyo Hackerspace Group (http://tokyohackerspace.org/)
First stop was Fukushima Aiikuen; the orphanage was nestled in a beautiful wooded area with a golf course running up one side to the southwest of Fukushima City. It was supremely quiet and relaxing and, at the orphanage itself, we wondered if anyone was there, it was so quiet. Soon we were ushered in to an inner room where we met with Saito-encho-sensei, the senior manager at the orphanage.
Self (looking a little stiff) with Saito-encho-sensei (center)
Joe Moross, looking entirely relaxed, with Saito-encho-sensei and other staff
As you can see from the photographs, the indoor reading at Fukushima Aiikuen was in the 0.18 - 0.19 microsieverts per hour range. After Joe had taken a geat deal of time explaining how to operate the geiger counters, Saito-encho-sensei simply asked: "This number," pointing to the geiger screen, "is it good or is it bad?" That question opened my eyes somewhat. Not only does the average person have very little idea as to what the microsievert reading means, but all they really want to know is is it a green light or a red light. On the surface, then, everything looked in order and normal but outside there were signs that all was not well. The playing area for the kids had been cordoned off and was not being used due to safety concerns. How the kids were going to burn off their energy I do not know and it really must be quite intolerable for them that they cannot go outside and play.
At Soma Aiikuen. The head of the orphanage, Kinoshita-encho-sensei, was out attending a conference when we arrived so we met with his deputy (above). Radiation readings here were around 0.16 - 0.18 microsieverts per hour in free air and around 0.3 - 0.35 microsieverts per hour on the concrete paths (~2cm from the concrete). For this orphanage I had also brought 20 umbrellas of various colours which I had picked up from the 100 yen store in Meguro the prior day.
Driving south from Soma, we took Route 6 down the coastline, past the city of Minamisoma until we hit the police roadblock at 20km out from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
This is the police roadblock just south of Minamisoma heading towards the Daiichi nuclear plant. The sign says "Keep Out" - photo courtesy of National Geographic
Trying to find a way back to the expressway system we twice took small winding backroads up through the mountains. Twice, we hit further police roadblocks and, at each one, our papers (driving licence, car insurance, shaken) were closely inspected. Both of the police roadblocks up in the mountains were in high radiation areas. The plume of radiation that escaped from the Daiichi plant on March 12th followed a nothwesterly direction towards Fukushima City. We found that the heavily wooded areas had higher radiation levels than open areas and this is probably because of contamination falling down and sticking to the leaves of the trees. At the last police roadblock that we encountered, the radiation was measured at just over 4 microsieverts per hour - the highest measurement on the entire trip.
To get out of the area, we then backtracked to Minamisoma and took the main road out of the city in the direction of Fukushima, on to the Ban-Etsu Expressway and then the Joban Expressway into Tokyo. We would have liked to have traveled the coast road south of Fukushima Daiichi but we were running out of time so we made our best haste back into Tokyo.