The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake was Japan's worst of all time, leading to more than 15,000 deaths and meltdowns at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. But all the footage I'd seen of it was of the subsequent tsunami and flooding that claimed most victims' lives. Here's high-definition footage of the earthquake itself, shot by a traveler in an airport. First, there's the shock and chaos of the quake; then the waters come. I didn't see anyone hurt in this footage, but it's terrifying all the same. Read the rest
Just when you'd forgotten about all that leaked radiation.
Ichiroya Kimono Flea Market is a company that sells vintage and new kimonos. I don't own any kimonos, and I don't expect to ever buy one. But I do subscribe to Ichiroya's email newsletter. Why? Because it's hands-down the best corporate communique I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
Honest, earnest, and unfiltered, the newsletter is written by Ichiro & Yuka Wada, who own and operate Ichiroya out of Osaka, Japan. The newsletters are not really about the company, per se. Sure, they discuss kimonos sometimes. But they're really more just a weekly personal letter from Japan. They're about life. And they're a pleasure to read, even when the life they're recording is incredibly sad.
I was turned onto the Ichiroya newsletters last month by science writer Shar Levine, who has been reading them for years. After the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan a year ago—and through the fear and madness that's followed the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns—Shar told me that the Ichiroya newsletters have been a powerful testament to how these disasters impacted the lives of everyday Japanese.
There are archives of some of the newsletters online. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find an archive that contained the letters written since March 11, 2011. However, when I got the Ichiroya newsletter today, I knew I needed to share it with you. The entire thing is posted below the cut. It tells a story of terrible sadness, strength, and rebirth that needs to be read. Read the rest
Veteran radio journalist and master storyteller Alex Chadwick (who's also a personal friend—he's taught me so much about journalism over the years) hosts a must-listen radio documentary premiering this weekend on public radio stations throughout the US.
BURN: An Energy Journal is a four-hour, four-part broadcast and digital documentary series exploring "the most pressing energy issues of our times."
Part One of the series, titled "Particles: Nuclear Power After Fukushima," coincides with March 11, the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. I've listened in entirety, and followed along as the BURN team researched and produced over the past few months, and I can tell you this is truly powerful work. The show also includes PBS Newshour reporter Miles O'Brien, reporting from inside the Fukushima exclusion zone on his recent trip there.
Carve out some time and listen to it on-air, or listen online at this link.
Snip from description:
Included in the riveting premiere episode is an exclusive, first-time-ever interview with an American who was on-site at the Daiichi nuclear plant when the earthquake and tsunami struck. Carl Pillitteri, a maintenance supervisor and one of 40 Americans in Fukushima on that fateful day, describes his terrifying ordeal as he desperately attempted to lead his men to safety through the enormous, shuddering turbine buildings in total darkness.
Below, a video excerpt from Alex's interview with Pillitteri.
More about the radio series follows.
Read the rest
Among the recent projects of London/Tokyo-based photojournalist Satoru Niwa is this stunning series of images captured near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, just days after the March 11, 2011 quake, tsunami, and ensuing nuclear disaster.
Above: a policeman wearing protective gear to guard against radiation, 15 miles from the plant, on March 25, 2011. Below, a family's photograph found in the tsunami mud, 5km from the plant in the now-abandoned town of Futaba.
Link to photo gallery: SILENCE/Fukushima.
Related works on his site include this equally powerful series of moonlit photos taken in the tsunami-devastated town of Miyagi, just two weeks after the disaster.
You can follow him on Twitter.
(via Miles O'Brien)
Read the rest
Members of UKC Japan care for dogs rescued from inside the exclusion zone, a 20km radius around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. (REUTERS)
As regular Boing Boing readers will recall, I traveled to Japan some months back with PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien to produce a series of stories about the aftermath of the March 11 quake/tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed.
In the course of reporting our story about Safecast's crowdsourced efforts to monitor radiation, we encountered abandoned pets inside the evacuation zone.
Reuters today published an article about new efforts to save animals abandoned by families forced to flee their homes after the nuclear disaster.
"If left alone, tens of them will die everyday. Unlike well-fed animals that can keep themselves warm with their own body fat, starving ones will just shrivel up and die," said Yasunori Hoso, who runs a shelter for about 350 dogs and cats rescued from the 20-km evacuation zone around the crippled nuclear plant.
The government let animal welfare groups enter the evacuation zone temporarily in December to rescue surviving pets before the severe winter weather set in, but Hoso said there were still many more dogs and cats left in the area.
"If we cannot go in to take them out, I hope the government will at least let us go there and leave food for them," he said.
Inset: Mr. Hoso, who is also director of the United Kennel Club Japan (UKC Japan), speaks in front of a destroyed house in Namie town, inside the 20km exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, January 28, 2012. Read the rest
Many challenges remain in measuring radiation leaked from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, after a devastating quake and tsunami 9 months ago left that site crippled. The crowdsourced efforts of a DIY tech group called Safecast were the subject of a report I produced with Miles O'Brien for NewsHour; other projects to capture this badly-needed data have been led by young mothers.
Today, a story is circulating about a group of researchers from Japan's Fukushima University who plan to enlist the help of wild monkeys, and maybe wild boars, to monitor radiation starting in Spring of 2012.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Researchers from Fukushima University plan to kit wild monkeys out with radiation-measuring collars to track the contamination levels deep in the forests, where it’s difficult for humans to go. (...) The monkey collars are geared with a small radiation-measuring device, a GPS system and an instrument that can detect the monkey’s distance from the ground as the radiation level is being tallied. Mr. Takahashi said more contraptions may be added, but these will be the three main ones.
So, it sounds like they'll capture the critters, tranquilize them, attach the devices, then free them again back in the wild to roam around and passively gather/transmit readings.
CNN reports that veterinarian Toshio Mizoguchi of the Fukushima Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (run by the regional government) came up with the idea. He wanted to find a way to observe the effect of radiation on the wild animals near Fukushima. Read the rest
The crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's upper part of the No.3 reactor building is seen from a bus window, November 12, 2011. REUTERS/Kyodo.
On Saturday, Japanese government representatives and TEPCO officials escorted a group of Japanese and foreign journalists inside the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant for the first time since March 11. This was the first time media were allowed in after a tsunami and earthquake eight months ago triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.
TEPCO and government officials hoped to show the world that the situation inside Fukushima is under control, eight months later. Visiting reporters had to wear protective gear, and undergo radiation screening. They saw crumbling reactor structures, huge piles of rubble, twisted metal fences, dented water tanks, and trucks overturned by the massive tsunami wave. Smaller administrative buildings nearby remain just as they were when office workers fled the oncoming wave, on March 11.
Authorities said they are hoping to reach full cold shutdown, but the reactor at Fukushima is not yet fully under control. It may take decades to safely close this site.
Reports from today's tour: Reuters, Associated Press, and the New York Times, with more here. AP also has a report today on conditions for workers. Related: The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations has released a detailed, minute-by-minute timeline of the events that unfolded at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11. The report was delivered on Nov. 11 to U.S. industry executives, the NRC, and of Congress. Read the rest
PBS NewsHour's Jenny Marder wrote a really interesting feature about the abandoned pets inside the Fukushima evacuation zone in Japan. I encountered some of them when I traveled to the area with Safecast and PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien (our resulting PBS NewsHour report video is here).
Jenny digs into what happened with the volunteer effort to rescue and adopt the abandoned pets, and talks to scientists about the effect of fallout on animals (including intergenerational and genetic changes, like what the world saw within bird and wild animal populations after Chernobyl). Snip:
At the tail end of Miles O'Brien's latest NewsHour report on radiation in Japan, a golden dog with a thick red collar trots into the street of the abandoned town, Katsurao, and weaves along the center divider.
Miles asks, off camera: "Do we have anything to feed him?"
The piece, which airs tonight, reports on the group Safecast, which has measured, mapped and crowdsourced data on radiation levels in locations throughout Japan, particularly in the hot spots near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The dog was one of several scrawny, undernourished dogs and cats they encountered, most likely abandoned by their owners during rapid evacuation.
Read more: What's the Fallout for Dogs Near Fukushima? (The Rundown News Blog | PBS NewsHour)
(Photos in this post by Sean Bonner: all iPhone snapshots of abandoned pets we encountered in the evacuation zone, shot during our drive from Tokyo to Fukushima in August, 2011)
Hacking geigers: Safecast crowdsources radiation data in Japan ... Read the rest
[Video Link: YouTube, PBS.org]
I traveled to Japan with PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien to help shoot and produce a series of NewsHour stories about the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters. One of these just aired, and is above. It's the story of how a group of hackers and internet folks are working with Japanese volunteers to harness DIY technology to record and share data about radiation hotspots.
We traveled with Safecast on a radiation-data-gathering drive from Tokyo to inside the voluntary evacuation zone, close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. We monitored readings on the ground and in the air with the Safecast team all along the way. You'll see what those contamination levels were, and what and whom we encountered, in this video.
Some of the voices in this piece are familiar names to regular Boing Boing readers: Joi Ito, Sean Bonner, and others. One DIY/Maker/hacker culture hero we interviewed whose work you see is Bunnie Huang (I was thrilled that this project allowed me to meet Bunnie in person for the first time).
In the NewsHour story, airing exactly eight months to the day after the March 11 disaster, you'll see the geiger counters the Safecast team have developed with Sebastopol, California-based Dan Sythe and International Medcom. The successor to the "B-Geigie" Safecast is using now will be a device Bunnie designed (which looks really elegant, by the way). Oh, and these geiger kits were assembled in the very cool Tokyo Hacker Space, a central site for the Safecast movement. Read the rest
Watch Online "Hacker" Group Crowdsources Radiation Data for Japanese Public on PBS. See more from PBS NEWSHOUR.
On PBS NewsHour tonight, a report I helped the program's science correspondent Miles O'Brien produce about the challenge people in Japan face of finding and sharing reliable data about radiation contamination, after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Embedded above, a conversation between Miles and NewsHour host Hari Sreenivasan about our report, which focuses on a grassroots group called Safecast that measures, maps, and publishes data on radiation contamination levels throughout the country.
While in Tokyo, Miles spoke to Hari Sreenivasan about his trip with Safecast workers into the voluntary exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where they detected levels reaching the equivalent of six X-rays per day.
He also filled us in on his conversations with Japanese officials working in evacuated areas and Japanese residents eager for more information about the consequences of the nuclear accident.
I'll post the video for the full feature when it's available online.
Earthquake Prediction: Could We Ever Forecast the Next Big One ...
Firsthand from Fukushima: Xeni on The Madeleine Brand Show ... Read the rest
I traveled to Japan recently with PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien, and helped shoot and produce a series of stories related to the March 11 disasters: earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. The first of those stories from Miles aired last night: on "the elusive science of earthquake prediction -- whether seismologists will ever be able to predict an earthquake with any certainty -- and how far they've come in Japan come toward making that a reality."
Read the story transcript here.
Coincidentally, this piece aired on the same day hundreds of cities on the U.S. West Coast took part in the 2011 Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill —and the same day as first one, then another moderate but jarring quake hit the San Francisco Bay Area. Twitter was all aflutter.
Read the rest
Greetings from Tokyo! Sean Bonner, who I'll be meeting in a few days along with the Safecast crew, shares word of a nifty, limited-edition USB gadget to benefit Japan tsunami relief.
Read the rest
The tsunami and earthquake have faded from the headlines, but the need for aid is still real. Incubot, in conjunction with partners World Events Productions and CustomUSB, have created a line of Japan Relief customs 2G USB drives: limited edition, fully licensed, and in colors honoring the japanese flag. Packaged in "Ganbari Japan!" custom boxes.
100% of profits go to Japanese Red Cross Society and to Safecast radiation monitoring efforts.
The video above documents what I am told is a meeting between Fukushima residents and government officials from Tokyo, said to have taken place on 19 July 2011. The citizens are demanding their government evacuate people from a broader area around the Fukushima nuclear plant, because of ever-increasing fears about the still-spreading radiation. They are demanding that their government provide financial and logistical support to get out. In the video above, you can see that some participants actually brought samples of their children's urine to the meeting, and they demanded that the government test it for radioactivity.
When asked by one person at the meeting about citizens' right to live a healthy and radioactive-free life, Local Nuclear Emergency Response Team Director Akira Satoh replies "I don't know if they have that right."
Boing Boing reader Rob Pongi spotted this online and sent this in to us. I asked him for more info.
Read the rest
The current evacuation zone in Fukushima is only 20-30 kilometers. The Japanese government has compensated the evacuees from inside that zone and has financially supported them in moving out of it. However, as more and more high levels of radiation are being discovered outside of the evacuation zone, many more Fukushima residents (and many others located nearby Fukushima) want the government to also help them logistically and financially so that they can move out further away from the nuclear plants. Especially since many children are now being exposed. But the government does not want to do this at all and many people are getting very upset.