After the cataclysmic explosion in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, more than 100,000 citizens living within 20km of the nuclear power station were evacuated. These residents were not allowed to return home for more than a year, until April 2012, when the Japanese government began to lift the evacuation order for some areas. As local governments contemplate strategies to revive these communities, a lingering question remains: how safe is it to live here? Answering this question is difficult for a number of reasons.
Our project aims to provide data to allow individuals and communities to make their own assessments. The Radioisotope Center (RC) in Niigata University has built a vehicle-mounted radiation monitoring system consisting of a real-time GPS receiver, a dosimeter, and a laptop. This tool allows government officials in the affected municipalities to continuously measure airborne radiation levels. RC has partnered with the Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE) from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to develop a public web-based interface to this data to inform citizens about radiation levels in their communities. Both of these tools enable gathering and making data available to the general public more easily, and allow the public to make informed decisions about the safety of the decontaminated zones in the absence of widely-accepted standards.