New Sensors Monitor Radiation in Japan
Posted (Tom Wyatt) on 25-05-2011

Engineers give data to the people. Following the devastating earthquake in Japan this year and its dangerous impact on nuclear power plants in Fukushima, a network of engineers has banded together to create wireless radiation sensors for the Japanese community. But limitations to radiation sensor technology and stockpiling of key components in other nations threatens to stall opportunities to help. Spanish wireless sensor manufacturer, Libelium, is working on a low-cost solution, a prototype radiation sensor that can be deployed quickly, providing local communities with the technology necessary to assess their risks and manage any potential harms.

For local citizens, the lack of available, trustworthy information on current radiation levels has been a cause of anxiety and fear. According to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, TEPCO — the corporation that manages the Fukushima power plants — has been accused of falsifying data in the past, and in this recent disaster has been reprimanded more than once for inadequate data collection processes.

Even if official data was more reliable, there are more needs for radiation monitoring than current infrastructure can provide. For local residents, it is a matter of being able to measure their household risk, while for farmers in the area it is necessary to monitor their crops, and for community groups to be able to scan radiation levels of donated food before distributing to those in need. A group of local engineers in Tokyo has been training local citizens and community leaders to interpret radiation readings, and online data platforms like pachube have set up maps and feeds so that anyone with radiation measuring devices can share real-time data online.

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