Earlier this week, we published my story about a grassroots initiative in Japan to map radiation, “DIY-style,” by a group of tech-minded citizen scientists.
I sent several emails and made phone calls to the relevant government agencies in Japan seeking reaction to this and similar "citizen scientist "initiatives over the last few weeks. Overnight Wednesday, I got a response. Unfortunately, we’d already published the story noting my efforts to get government reaction.
But for the interested reader, I’m sharing those comments here, with my questions (which I have shortened since they were fairly lengthy).
Email: “Dear Ms. Miranda Leitsinger, I am Naoaki Akasaka of Emergency Operation Center of MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) which conduct environmental radiation monitoring regarding with Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS accident. I am very sorry for not having answered your questions sooner.”
Question: I wanted to get reaction from NISA/METI on such grassroots efforts? Is this recommended or not?
Answer: “We think it is basically preferable that many organizations including grassroots' efforts measure and press the environmental radiation level, because more data of environmental radiation will be accumulated. But we think we have to pay close attention for intercomparison for these data, because measurement procedures and measurement accuracy are different depending on organizations.
We think it is beneficial to people to get much information from many sources about radioactive contamination level at their living region, but specific information sources are never recommended by us.”
Q: Where can people find information about the radiation measurements for their towns or cities in Japan? How much area does this testing cover? Who is collecting the measurement data? Does the government use mobile Geiger counters, or ones in fixed places to take the measurements?
A: “The environmental radiation monitoring is being conducted by Japanese government and each local government. People can get information about environmental radiation level from their press release or their Homepage. Especially, concerning detail information about environmental radiation level at their residential area, we think it is better that they look for the released data from the local government where they are living.
After Fukushima Dai-ich accident, each local government, especially prefecture of east side of Japan, are conducting many activities regarding with environmental monitoring. Japanese government also decided a lot of reading points, and is doing the measurement of the air dose rate by ionization chamber and NaI portable scintillators and the measurements of the integral dose by the simple type dosimeter continuously in Fukushima Prefecture. In addition, at prefectures other than Fukushima Prefecture, Japanese government is planning to increase the monitoring post, to measure air dose rate at wide area using portable survey meter and to conduct wider monitoring of airborne survey.”
Q: Has the government issued guidelines about what are the safe levels for radiation and what ones are not safe?
A: “Nuclear Safety Commission is evaluating the result of the environmental monitoring.”