Safecast Daiichi Water Release Plan Report

Mon, 06/07/2021 - 03:51

We have made downloadable English and Japanese pdf versions of our recent commentary and critique regarding the Fukushima Daiichi water discharge plan. Readers are welcome to share them freely.

English version here


Japanese version here


Fukushima Daiichi Water: The World is Watching… or Should Be

Thu, 05/06/2021 - 13:04

On April 13, the Japanese government announced that it had approved a plan by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (Tepco) to discharge treated water currently being stored in tanks at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. 1

Safecast considers it important to highlight our specific concerns in regard to this decision and offer recommendations to help ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are protected. Our unease centers primarily on how this unilateral decision may set a dangerous international precedent.

Tepco, the power utility managing the damaged plant, has shown a lack of transparency and good faith around the water issue. We believe that fully transparent independent monitoring and oversight of the environment must be done prior to, during and after any such release to ensure that the process is acceptable to the global community.

The 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused tremendous environmental, economic and societal hardship. Many of these problems have been addressed creatively and industriously, but, 10 years later, many huge challenges still remain and will continue to remain for decades to come.

The cleanup of the accumulated contaminated water being stored on site is both a technical and socioeconomic challenge. At present, approximately 1.2 million tons of this water is stored in more than 1,000 large tanks at the plant, and the amount increases daily. 2

Tepco proposes that once treated to remove all radionuclides besides tritium (a radioactive form of hydrogen, which is considered one of the least dangerous to health), it can be diluted with seawater to very small concentrations and gradually released into the Pacific Ocean. The dilution and discharge option, recommended by both the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Japan Nuclear Regulation Authority as far back as 2013, was one of several evaluated by official committees in Japan, and was selected on the basis of technical feasibility, time, cost and safety. 3

The release would begin in two years’ time and will require approximately 30 years to complete. It is possible that this approach is the least objectionable of several problematic options, but it has been justified on a number of bases that could be considered questionable. 4

The IAEA and the United States have expressed support for the release plan. But even at this late date, no clear technical plan or environmental impact study has been made public, and the proposal has been developed without any significant consultation with neighboring countries, the international community or even stakeholders in Japan. 5 

Because of this, several nations, notably South Korea and China, have expressed their opposition. 6 The Japanese fishing industry, which fears that the global market for all Japanese seafood products, not just those from Fukushima, will suffer irreparable harm, has also expressed firm opposition. 7  The discharge proposal should be considered a transboundary release of radioactive material, and existing IAEA agreements, among others, stipulate that concerned nations and other stakeholders should be consulted in such cases.

In particular, IAEA guidelines stipulate that special provisions are needed when a release can conceivably have radiological impacts outside the territory or jurisdiction of the country in which it originates.8 No one has credibly argued that the proposed discharge from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant will not impact, be detectable in or cause concern to other countries.

On the contrary, countries around the Pacific rim in particular are justified in demanding to be consulted even if the impacts are estimated to be small. Others have cogently argued that the proposed release may be a violation of obligations under marine environment treaties such as the 1974 London Convention of the International Maritime Organization.9

The merits of those arguments may well be tested in the courts. It is beyond doubt that such unilateral action is unethical. In such a controversial and highly visible case, Tepco and the Japanese government should be actively seeking fuller participation and input from stakeholders, including those in other nations, and demonstrate clearly that their concerns are being conscientiously addressed.

Allowing the release to proceed unilaterally without genuine international consultation and engagement would set a dangerous precedent and further damage the international rules-based agreement system. If Japan insists upon making such large long-term discharges based only on its own assurances, it would lose standing to oppose similar releases by others.

The international community should be alarmed as well. Quite a few nuclear power nations could be tempted to defy opposition from their neighbors and release radioactive material to the ocean freely, using the Fukushima example as a precedent. What is to prevent the Russian Federation from unilaterally releasing radioactive liquid waste into the Arctic Ocean or the Sea of Japan? Or China into the Sea of Japan or the South China Sea? Or the United Arab Emirates to the Persian Gulf? 10 

Unlike nuclear arms nonproliferation, the international system for monitoring radiation releases under the umbrella of the IAEA essentially works on the honor system and it is easily abused. Nations cannot be compelled to do the right thing. Even diplomatic pressure and the pressure of public opinion sometimes prove insufficient, but they remain the best tools. The provision of transparent international verification in relation to such a discharge is an important part of that.

Official Japanese talking points stress the purported safety of the planned discharge by claiming that similar releases from nuclear facilities are “common” or “normal.” 11 This is disingenuous and deceptive. Tepco assures us that, after a lengthy and expensive process of treatment using its ALPS radionuclide removal system, the radioactive concentrations in the water will be similar to those of other controlled releases and should be considered similarly routine and require minimal regulation.

But during normal nuclear power generation and fuel processing, tritium is generated in relatively predictable quantities and released on a designed basis as part of normal operation. In the case of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the release is an emergency stopgap intended to prevent possibly more catastrophic consequences that might occur from burst tanks or overburdened pipes, as well as being a convenient solution to the lack of space to build more tanks. Nothing about it is “normal,” and as such it demands closer scrutiny and oversight and a more thorough regulatory regime.

The ALPS system does, in fact, appear capable of removing all radionuclides of concern except tritium when operating at top condition, but it is dangerous to assume that all 1.2 million tons of water currently being stored, as well as the similarly large additional quantity expected to be generated, will be effectively treated to the required rigorous standard without fail over the course of decades.12

The many potential failure points are both technical and human: pumps wear out, filters clog, gaskets deteriorate, wrong levers are pulled and workers get disgruntled. Would Tepco be adequately transparent about such incidents and their consequences? Would we be informed, for instance, if 10% of the strontium 90 had somehow escaped into the Pacific?13 Unfortunately, the international community cannot make that assumption. The company’s prior lack of transparency and their bad faith, particularly on the water issue, is well-documented.

From the beginning of testing and implementation of the ALPS system in late 2012, Tepco assured the world that the only radionuclide of concern that remained in the water after treatment was tritium. The dilution and release plan was heavily promoted to the public on that basis.14

In late 2018, however, the company admitted that roughly 80% of the water —890,000 of the 1.1 million tons of treated water then in storage— still contained above-limit levels of strontium 90, cobalt 60, ruthenium 106 and many other radionuclides that the system had failed to adequately remove. 15 Upon learning that this fact had been intentionally concealed by Tepco, the public was outraged. Those supporting the release plan seem to hope that this massive betrayal of trust has been forgotten.

For all of these reasons, even if experts were unanimous that the planned release theoretically posed no risk to the ocean ecosystem or to human health, it should not be allowed to proceed without a robust impact assessment and verification process in place. The public needs to know now what kind of monitoring and transparency efforts will be implemented, and by whom. 16

Because of the transnational implications, the monitoring regime should be international and cooperative in scope. It should be a participatory process developed in consultation with all stakeholders, in Japan and internationally.Tepco’s untrustworthy track record further necessitates that the verification be provided by independent third parties. 17

Tepco has never provided the public with a detailed inventory of the mix of radionuclides currently present in each tank and their levels; this should be done immediately and independently verified. The radionuclide content of the water should similarly be independently verified after treatment and prior to release. 18

The spread of the radiation through the ocean environment should be closely monitored, as well as its effects on marine life. A verification framework that includes qualified independent researchers should be quickly established and funded. It will have to remain in place for the 30 years or more that the releases will require, and for many years following their conclusion.

The IAEA can play a constructive coordinating role and has offered its technical support in monitoring the implementation of the plan. We fear, however, that the IAEA will find itself overly dependent on the Japanese government for access, and that it will be overly conciliatory in its approach to the detriment of the global community. 19

The vast majority of the effects of the Fukushima disaster have fallen upon the Japanese people, and most of the decisions about how to respond are theirs to make. However, this accident has also had many consequences beyond Japan’s borders, and it should be clear that discharging this contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean concerns more than just the Japanese nation.

There is nothing normal about this water release plan and an enhanced and internationally coordinated response in monitoring and verification is justified, reasonable and proportionate.

— By Azby Brown and Iain Darby, for SAFECAST


The core of this text previously appeared as an op-ed in the Japan Times. It has been annotated here with links to relevant information as well as commentary on policy, legal precedent, and the historical record:

Plan to discharge Fukushima plant water into sea sets a dangerous precedent; JapanTimes, Azby Brown and Iain Darby, April 24, 2021:…/fukushima-radiation-3-11-nuclear-energy-radioactive-water-iaea

Safecast has published extensive information and analyses about the Fukushima Daiichi water issue. This two-part series, written before it became known that the ALPS-treated treated water in water tanks onsite contained many other radionuclides of concern, discusses the scientific and health risk aspects of tritium, as well as policy and transparency issues in the context of the proposed release:

PART 1: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?;Azby Brown, June 5, 2018:

PART 2: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?;Azby Brown, June 5, 2018:

Related op-ed at the Japan Times:

About that tritiated water: Who will decide and when?; Azby Brown, Japan Times, June 5, 2018:

Followup in 2019:

Transparency, the olympics, and that damned water, Part 1; Azby Brown, November 26, 2019:

Notes and References:

1. Japanese-language documents from the ministerial meeting of March 13, 2021, can be found here:

廃炉・汚染水・処理水対策関係閣僚等会議(第5回)配付資料一覧 (Hai-ro osen mizu shori mizu taisaku kankei kakuryō-tō kaigi (dai 5-kai) haifu shiryō ichiran/Conference of Ministers on Decommissioning, Contaminated Water, and Treated Water Measures (5th) List of handouts):

Primary English-language source:

METI: Basic Policy on handling of ALPS treated water at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings’ Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station; The Inter-Ministerial Council for Contaminated Water, Treated Water and Decommissioning issues, 13 April, 2021:

There was much international media coverage of the April 13, 2021 announcement, for example:

Government OKs discharge of Fukushima nuclear plant water into sea; Japan Times, April 13, 2021:

Fukushima Wastewater Will Be Released Into the Ocean, Japan Says; New York Times,  April 13, 2021:

2. TEPCO reports that as of April 1, 2021, approx. 1.25 million m3 of water was being stored onsite in 1,047 tanks. The average tritium concentration is approx. 620,000Bq/L; the total radioactivity in the tritium is approx. 780 trillion Bq.

New Definition of ALPS Treated Water and the Amount of Tritium in Water being stored in Tanks; TEPCO, April 27, 2021:

What is the meaning of “contaminated”?

The current edition of the IAEA Safety Glossary defines “contaminated” as:

“1. Radioactive substances on surfaces, or within solids, liquids or gases (including the human body), where their presence is unintended or undesirable, or the process giving rise to their presence in such places…The term contamination refers only to the presence of radioactivity, and gives no indication of the magnitude of the hazard involved.” (italics original).

The definition notes that while regulatory definitions may specify levels of radioactivity above which the term will apply, the above scientific definition applies regardless of the amount or concentration of radioactivity present. We recognize that the word can be used in order to highlight the suggestion of danger. Our intent is objective, however.

By TEPCO’s own admission, upwards of 70% of the water which has been processed by the ALPS system to date remains contaminated with radionuclides of concern. Even if it proves possible to remove all radionuclides besides tritium, at the high initial concentrations typical at Fukushima Daiichi so far the tritiated water certainly meets the IAEA definition of “contaminated.” We would argue that even if it proves possible to dilute the tritiated water to concentrations well below the regulation release limits, it would still meet the IAEA definition of “contaminated.” This is separate from any evaluation of risk.

In a written response to UN Special Rapporteurs in June, 2020, the Government of Japan insisted that “…ALPS treated water stored in the tanks is not contaminated water.” Concurrent with the March 13, 2021 decision to dilute and discharge the water being stored onsite at Fukushima Daiichi, including reprocessing over 70% of what had already been treated by the ALPS system, METI announced that it had actually changed the definition of “ALPS treated water.” They state, “In order to prevent reputational damage based on such misunderstandings, in the future, only “water that meets the regulatory standards for discharge into the environment regarding nuclides other than tritium” will be termed “ALPS treated water.”

This strikes us as an Orwellian attempt to change the public perception of the problem by limiting the language being used to discuss it.

Response to the Joint Communication from Special Procedures from the Government of Japan; Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 12, 2020:

Change to the Definition of ALPS Treated Water at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station; METI, April 13, 2021:

3.        IAEA: Tepco Should Consider Controlled Discharge; Wall Street Journal, Mari Iwata, Dec 4, 2013:

Fukushima Watch: Regulator Calls on Tepco to Discharge Tritium Water; Wall Street Journal, Mari Iwata, Jan 21, 2015:

In Feb., 2015,  regarding the water issue, the IAEA stated:

“However, storage being a temporary measure TEPCO has to find a more sustainable solution. For this TEPCO should consider all options, including the possible resumption of controlled discharges of treated water to the sea as advised during the previous mission. In the opinion of the IAEA team, any decision to resume controlled discharges should be taken after carefully considering all relevant aspects including potential impact on the health of the public, protection of the environment and socioeconomic conditions – all in consultation with relevant stakeholders.” (emphasis ours)

IAEA International Peer Review Mission On Mid-And-Long-Term Roadmap Towards The Decommissioning of Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4 (Third Mission) — Preliminary Summary Report to The Government Of Japan, 9 – 17 February 2015:

4.         Basic Policy on handling of ALPS treated water at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings’ Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station; METI: The Inter-Ministerial Council for Contaminated Water, Treated Water and Decommissioning issues, 13 April, 2021:

[Digest version] : TEPCO Holdings’ Action in Response to the Government’s Policy on the Handling of ALPS Treated Water; TEPCO, April 16, 2021:

5. The statements from the IAEA and the United States government are strongly supportive of Japan’s decision. Both also highlight transparency on Japan’s part as being central to their support. In characteristically diplomatic language, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi is quoted as saying, “I’m confident that the Government will continue to interact with all parties in a transparent and open way as it works to implement today’s decision.” Experienced observers will recognize this not as a compliment, but as an admonition urging transparency. Similarly, US State Dept. spokesman Ned Price, said, “We look forward to the GOJ’s continued coordination and communication as it monitors the effectiveness of this approach.” (emphasis ours) Again, couched in the language of support is a statement of expectations. It is difficult to argue that either Japan or TEPCO has been adequately transparent on the matter overall to date.

IAEA Ready to Support Japan on Fukushima Water Disposal, Director General Grossi Says; April 13, 2021:

Government of Japan’s Announcement on Fukushima Treated Water Release Decision; PRESS STATEMENT, Ned Price, Department Spokesperson, April 12, 2021:

6.       China warns of action over Japan’s decision to dump radioactive Fukushima water into the sea; South China Morning Post, Catherine Wong, 13 Apr, 2021:

7. Press reports often portray opposition to the release as coming only from local fisheries cooperatives in Fukushima, but in fact opposition is united among fisheries throughout the nation. They are one of the largest stakeholders in the issue, and stand to suffer the greatest damage. Nevertheless, their legitimate concerns are being disregarded. The nationwide Federation of Japan Fisheries Cooperatives chairman Hiroshi Kishi and other fisheries representatives met with Prime Minister Suga on April 7th, 2021, to urge him not to approve the release plan. According to the Asahi Shimbun, following the April 13th decision, Kishi issued a statement calling it, “…extremely regrettable and totally unacceptable….The government reversed its earlier position that it would not go ahead with the water disposal without gaining an understanding from concerned parties….The decision tramples on the feelings of fishermen not only in Fukushima Prefecture but also in the rest of Japan.”

Outcry erupts in and out of Japan over Fukushima water decision; The Asahi Shimbun,  April 13, 2021:

8. We believe it is important that the IAEA officially answer the question of whether or not it considers the planned discharge from Fukushima Daiichi a transboundary release, and so subject to relevant guidelines that require notification and consultation. If it does not consider it so, the agency should clearly explain why not. IAEA guidelines stipulate that special provisions are needed when a release can conceivably have radiological impacts outside the territory or jurisdiction of the country in which it originates. In particular, the 1986 Convention on Nuclear Safety stipulates:

“The Early Notification Convention establishes a notification system for nuclear accidents that have the potential for an international transboundary release of radioactive material that could be of radiological safety significance for another state.”

Convention on Nuclear Safety; IAEA, Information page:

1994 Convention on Nuclear Safety, IAEA, text in full:

In addition, the IAEA International Basic Safety Standards, jointly sponsored by the EC, FAO, IAEA, ILO, OECD/NEA, PAHO, UNEP, and WHO, stipulates in its section on transboundary impacts:

“3.18. Paragraph 3.124 of GSR Part 3 [3] establishes requirements for the assessment of radiological impacts and the control of discharges when a source within a practice could cause public exposure outside the territory or other area under the jurisdiction of the or control of the State in which the source is located, the government or the regulatory body:

a) Shall ensure that the assessment for radiological impacts includes those impacts outside the territory or other area under the jurisdiction of the or control of the State;

b) Shall, to the extent possible, establish requirements for the control of discharges;

c) Shall arrange with the affected State the means for the exchange of information and consultations, as appropriate.”

Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards; General Safety Requirements Part 3: IAEA,

9. The South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) raised the issue of Fukushima Daiichi water releases at a meeting of the London Convention in 2019. South Korean ministry representative Song Myeong-dal is quoted as saying:

“If [Japan] does release contaminated water from the plant into the ocean, this could have an impact on the global oceanic environment and be in violation of the aims of the London Protocol…In order to find a method of contaminated nuclear power plant water handling that the international community can be confident is safe, I think this matter should be discussed on an ongoing basis by the consultative meeting of contracted parties to the London Convention and Protocol.”

South Korea Brings Fukushima Wastewater Issue to London Convention Meeting; Water and Wastes Digest, Cristina Tuser, Oct. 11, 2019:

Following the April 2021 release decision, South Korea again raised the issue to the London Convention and Protocol Scientific Group meeting. They asserted that “Japan made the decision unilaterally without prior consultation with its closest neighbor South Korea,” further stressing, “…that it is an important issue posing a threat to the safety of neighboring countries and the maritime environment.”

Korea Raises Japan’s Fukushima Water Release at Int’l Conference; KBS WORLD, April 19, 2021:

See also:

Japan’s plan for radioactive water defies international law; Korea Times, Duncan E. J. Currie and Shaun Burnie, March 3, 2020:

On April 19, 20211, after meeting with the visiting US special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry, South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong listed three specific conditions that he is requesting Tokyo to meet in order satisfy the nation’s concerns:

“First, he requested that Tokyo provide scientific evidence that the measure is safe; second, he urged in-depth prior consultations; and third, he called for the inclusion of South Korean experts in the verification process by the International Atomic Energy Agency. He said if Japan follows the due processes under the standards of the IAEA, Seoul has no particular reason to object.”

Minister Chung added that South Korea “is waiting to see whether Japan will meet these obligations.”

According to JIJI Press, the Minister, “…indicated that South Korea could initiate an international dispute settlement process if Japan is judged to have failed to take sufficient action.”  A lawsuit with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea over the matter is reportedly still under consideration.

S.Korea shows some understanding to treated water; NHK World, April 19, 2021:

Korea May Accept Fukushima Water Release under IAEA Standards; JIJI Press, April 19, 2021:

Much of the legal discussion regarding Japan’s international obligations examines the precedent set when TEPCO released 11,500 tons of untreated water into the Pacific Ocean in April 2011 as an emergency measure to free up storage space, and another 300,000 tons the following month. The precedent Japan set at the time is at the heart of many concerns regarding the planned dilution and discharge. Takamura (2014) helpfully enumerates the many treaties and agreements intended to prevent environmental damage from ocean dumping, specifically including radioactive material. These include the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1972 London Convention, Montreal Guidelines for the Protection of the Marine Environment Against Pollution from Land-based Sources, the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), in addition to applicable provisions in the IAEA Convention on Assistance in Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency and the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident ( Early Notification Convention). Takamura notes that although in spirit and intent many of these agreements can be seen to apply to ocean releases of radioactive material from land like that from Fukushima Daiichi, many of the agreements are non-binding and lack explicit provisions specifically prohibiting such releases.

Takamura further notes that in 2011, “Japan argues that it did not violate these obligations to notify because the release in question had not caused and was not likely to cause transboundary adverse effects to the environment of other states or to the marine environment of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.”  We agree with Takamura’s observation that “even in the middle of dispute, states have an obligation to cooperate and consult in order to exchange relevant information, to undertake monitoring and risk assessment even when states in a dispute have a different assessment about the existence and gravity of potential risk of marine pollution… in line with the concept of precaution, which requires states to continually reevaluate potential risk of an activity in light of scientific developments in order to implement the obligation to prevent transboundary damage to the environment.”

Release of Radioactive Substances into the Sea and International Law: The Japanese Experience in the Course of Nuclear Disaster; Yukari Takamura, The International Law of Disaster Relief: from Part II – The Law of International Disaster Relief: From Local to Global, August 2014:

There’s Something in the Water: The Inadequacy of International Anti-Dumping Laws as Applied to the Fukushima Daiichi Radioactive Water Discharge; Darian Ghorb, American University International Law Review, Volume 27 | Issue 2 Article 7, 2012:

Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter; aka London Convention 1972; 1992 London Protocol; International Maritime Organization:

10. Data provided by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) indicates that approximately one fourth of the 460 working commercial nuclear reactors worldwide are situated on ocean coastlines, including about 20 nations in all. Over 25 nuclear facilities, both operational and those under construction, are sited on the ocean coastlines of East Asian nations facing Japan.

WANO online interactive map:

WANO nuclear facility information sheet:

Carbon Brief: Mapped: The world’s nuclear power plants:

11. For example, in “The Outline of the Handling of ALPS Treated Water at Fukushima Daiichi NPS (FDNPS)” METI states:

“NPPs in Japan and overseas have been discharging water containing tritium for more than 40 years.

         — Concentration of tritium in sea water near NPPs are significantly lower than that of drinking water standards in the world.

         —It has not been found that tritium from NPPs have an impact on health.”

 The Outline of the Handling of ALPS Treated Water at Fukushima Daiichi NPS (FDNPS); METI, February 2020:

Similarly, in the “Basic Policy on handling of ALPS treated water at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings’ Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station,” 13 April, 2021, METI states:

“Tritium is discharged from nuclear facilities in each operating country. Though there are some facilities from which the annual amount of tritium is discharged exceeds the total amount of tritium stored in Fukushima Daiichi NPS, no examples of impact attributable to tritium have been commonly seen among nuclear power facilities”.

Basic Policy on handling of ALPS treated water at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings’ Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station; METI: The Inter-Ministerial Council for Contaminated Water, Treated Water and Decommissioning issues, 13 April, 2021:

In its “Response to the Joint Communication from Special Procedures from the Government of Japan,” June 12, 2020, the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs states:

“…the IAEA Review Team considers the two options (namely, controlled vapor release and controlled discharges into the sea, the latter of which is routinely used by operating nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities in Japan and worldwide) selected out of the initial five options are technically feasible and would allow the timeline objective to be achieved.”

Response to the Joint Communication from Special Procedures from the Government of Japan, MOFA, June 12, 2020:

The IAEA’s repeated statements that Japan’s planned method is in line with routine practice worldwide have been essential to Japan’s continued claim that the Fukushima release will be “normal.” The IAEA, however often implies conditions that remain to be met, such as full environmental impact assessments:

“Japan’s chosen water disposal method is both technically feasible and in line with international practice, IAEA Director General Grossi said. Controlled water discharges into the sea are routinely used by operating nuclear power plants in the world and in the region under specific regulatory authorisations based on safety and environmental impact assessments.”

IAEA Ready to Support Japan on Fukushima Water Disposal, Director General Grossi Says; IAEA, April 13, 2021:

12.  Between Sept-Dec 2020, TEPCO conducted performance confirmation tests of the ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) re-treatment process. A total of 2000m3 of previously treated water which exceeds the legally required concentrations for the primary seven nuclides was re-processed. The results reported by TEPCO are encouraging, but should not be accepted as fact without independent verification. It is important to keep in mind that in addition to its inability to remove tritium, ALPS is not designed to remove Carbon-14, so that nuclide will also remain regardless of the effectiveness of re-treatment.

Results from secondary treatment performance confirmation tests on water treated with multi-nuclide removal equipment (final report); TEPCO, Dec. 24, 2020:

13. Based on TEPCO data for 200 tanks (roughly 1/5 of the total) reported in Dec. 2019, Buesseler (2020) notes that the tanks currently contain Strontium-90 at concentrations up to 600,000 Bq/liter, which is 20,000 times the release limit for Japanese nuclear operators (30 Bq/liter). The mean Sr-90 concentration in these tanks is approximately 1 Bq/Liter, and ~50% is below 10 Bq/liter. In all, about 65,000 tons of treated water onsite contain strontium-90 at levels that are more than 100 times the Japanese regulatory limit for environmental release.

Opening the floodgates at Fukushima; Ken O. Buesseler, Science, Aug. 7, 2020:

14. A Feb. 2012 TEPCO report provided early test results for the ALPS system, indicating that 54 radionuclides would be reduced to non-detectable (ND) levels. Tritium is not mentioned.

Multi-nuclide Removal Equipment; TEPCO, Feb. 27, 2012:

Based on information from TEPCO, NEI Nuclear Engineering International reported in August, 2012, that the ALPS system would remove 62 radionuclides of concern to undetectable (ND) levels, leaving only tritium.

The ultimate water treatment system; NEI Nuclear Engineering International, August 1, 2012:

The Oct., 2014, TEPCO report “Multi‐nuclide Removal Equipment (“ALPS”) (Existing/ Improved/ High‐performance)” states that every version of the ALPS system would remove 62 nuclides to the non-detectable (ND) levels, leaving only tritium.

Multi‐nuclide Removal Equipment (“ALPS”) (Existing/ Improved/ High‐performance); TEPCO, Oct. 21, 2014:

In Sept., 2014, however, a METI report stipulates that the ALPS system simply “…aims to reduce the levels of 62 nuclides in contaminated water to the legal release limit or lower (tritium cannot be removed),”indicating that no attempt would be made to reduce the nuclides to the non-detectable (ND) level. This apparent policy change was made quietly. No mention was made of Carbon-14.

Summary of Decommissioning and Contaminated Water Management; Secretariat of the Team for Countermeasures for Decommissioning and Contaminated Water Treatment, September 25, 2014:

15.  TEPCO currently states that 72% of the water, or 780,000 tons, is above limit, reflecting an increase in the overall quantity of water produced since 2018 as well as continuing inefficiencies in the ALPS treatment.

TEPCO Draft Study Responding to the Subcommittee Report on Handling ALPS Treated Water; TEPCO, March 24, 2020:

TEPCO test results were available as early as June 2014 which showed that in its initial configuration ALPS had failed to remove Co-60, Ru-106, Sb-125 and I-129, which were detected at comparatively high levels (but not Sr-90, which was shown as “ND”). Solutions to improve performance were suggested in the report, but the findings were not publicized. The findings were likely to be interpreted by outside observers as indicating a minor problem that would be quickly rectified.

Status of Contaminated Water Treatment and Tritium at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station; TEPCO: Noboru.Ishizawa, Project Planning Department, June 2, 2014:

The earliest public account that the ALPS system had failed to remove other radionuclides of concern emerged in August, 2018:

ALPS system at Fukushima No. 1 plant failing to remove more than tritium from toxic cooling water; Kyodo/Japan Times, Aug 19, 2018:

In September, 2018, TEPCO admitted the scale of the problem publicly, and reported to METI on Oct. 1, 2018. According to Reuters:

“Documents on the government committee’s website show that of 890,000 tonnes of water held at Fukushima, 750,000 tonnes, or 84 percent, contain higher concentrations of radioactive materials than legal limits allow.

“In 65,000 tonnes of treated water, the levels of radioactive materials are more than 100 times government safety levels.

“Radioactive readings of one of those isotopes, strontium-90, considered dangerous to human health, were detected at 600,000 becquerels per liter in some tanks, 20,000 times the legal limit.

“Tepco has for years insisted that its purification processes remove strontium and 61 other radioactive elements from the contaminated water but leaves tritium, a mildly radioactive element that is difficult to separate from water.”

TEPCO apologizes for still-radioactive water at Fukushima plant; Reuters,  Aaron Sheldrick and Osamu Tsukimori,  Oct. 13, 2018:

16.  A number of documents issued by the Japanese Government, TEPCO, and the IAEA have mentioned the need for effective monitoring before, during, and after these releases. Even at this late date, however, following years of planning and an extremely short timeframe before the releases are due to begin, these statements lack any specifics regarding who would be allowed to participate, and who would be given decision-making power regarding the monitoring programs themselves.

For instance, TEPCO has said that it “will further expand and strengthen our sea area monitoring efforts to minimize the adverse impacts on reputation. Objectivity and transparency of monitoring will be secured by asking for the cooperation of experts and the people in the agricultural, forestry, and fishery industry.”

How will these individuals be selected? How will the effort be funded? How will such participation be organized and directed? This information should have been presented in detail before the decision to release was announced.  Similarly, the same document states:

“Specifically, we will create an enhanced sea area monitoring plan with increased sampling points and sampling frequency, and will start sea area monitoring according to this plan a year before discharge is scheduled to start. The results of monitoring will be disclosed promptly and third parties will measure, assess and disclose results to secure transparency.”

Again, details of the plan and other specifics should have already been made available to the public. Importantly, how will these “third parties” be selected, and how will their credibility and impartiality be assured?

Attachment 1: TEPCO Holdings’ Action in Response to the Government’s Policy on the Handling of ALPS Treated Water; TEPCO, April 16, 2021:

In their “Joint Communication From Special Procedures” of April 20, 2020, UN Special Rapporteurs noted that local stakeholders reported widespread dissatisfaction with the consultation processes established so far by TEPCO and the Japanese Government regarding the water release issue. Because of this and other past history, stakeholders are unlikely to trust that their participation and input will be adequately prioritized.

Joint Communication from Special Procedures; United Nations Special Rapporteurs, April 20, 2020:

17.  Due to the lack of preparation to date, it will be a great challenge to establish an appropriately independent, international, cooperative, and participatory monitoring regime in the short time remaining, but we consider it essential. We stress that this process should fully prioritize the interests of stakeholders, including those outside of Japan. It should be independently funded and managed, and open to participation by all interested parties. We also believe the monitoring data itself should be published as fully open data.

The goal of participatory monitoring is not to allay fear or to “counter damaging rumors.” It is to realize citizens’ rights to access to information, participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters. These rights and their implications for what citizens should expect and demand are spelled out most clearly in the Aaarhus Convention, which entered into force in October 2001. Full participation and decision-making power for citizens is not a “favor” or a “concession,” it is a fundamental right. The environmental consequences of the Fukushima disaster, specifically the proposed release of the stored water from the Fukushima Daiichi site, are precisely the kind of contingencies for which the Aarhus Convention was drafted.

The Aarhus Convention; European Commission:

It would be helpful to encourage participation by laboratories which are part of the IAEA ALMERA network, which includes 193 highly qualified laboratories in 89 countries. Member laboratories share standardized methods and have well established information sharing. Five laboratories in Japan are currently members, and neighboring countries which have expressed concern, such as South Korea and China, each have several member laboratories as well. Their participation would strengthen the credibility of the monitoring process.

The ALMERA Network; IAEA:

Participation should not be limited to laboratories or other entities under the IAEA umbrella, however. Any qualified oceanographic or marine sciences institution or researcher should be welcome to participate. Additionally, the participation of citizen groups in Japan and abroad is essential. As Safecast has demonstrated, citizen science is now on par technically with formal institutional science, and credible citizen science participation will be essential for generating data that is trustworthy in the eyes of the public. Many such groups exist in Japan and overseas. In France, for instance, the citizen group ACRO is a central participant in monitoring programs for environmental tritium from nuclear facilities along the French coast and inland.

ACRO: Surveillance du littoral:

Dr. Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution wrote:

“Making data available is a good start (9) but not enough. Seafood and ocean monitoring should continue to involve local fisherman, and studies that involve public participation in sampling would be an effective tool to improve public education and build confidence in the result…If there is a release, supporting independent ocean study of multiple contaminants in seawater, marine biota, and seafloor sediments should occur before, during, and after. Although the operators have promised some of this, actions will matter more than words.”

Opening the floodgates at Fukushima; Ken O. Buesseler, Science, Aug. 7, 2020:

18. Researchers in Japan and abroad have long called for access to water samples from the Daichi tanks, and for a fully detailed and open radionuclide inventory to be made public. Since 2019 TEPCO has provided summaries of radionuclide concentrations for each tank area along with sums of concentration ratios, as well as measurements taken at a single point, the ALPS system outlet. But no inventory detailing what is in each tank has yet been made public, if one exists.

Actual radiation concentration measurements for each tank group (except for repurposed tanks) (as of December 31, 2020); TEPCO, Dec 31, 2020:

Radiation concentrations measured at the multi-nuclide removal equipment (ALPS) outlet (as of December 31, 2020); TEPCO, Dec. 31, 2020:

19.  We sincerely hope that the IAEA will establish truly transparent and effective oversight, and assist in building a genuinely independent, international, and inclusive monitoring regime. In both cases credibility and trustworthiness will hinge on the public’s perception of non-interference on the part of TEPCO and the Japanese Government. For this reason, it will be of paramount importance that any IAEA oversight and advisory body be mandated to report directly to the IAEA directorate, without requiring approval from the Japanese Government, as has been the case for Fukushima-related IAEA peer missions to date.

For neighboring nations like South Korea which have protested Japan’s decision, accommodation should in many cases be straightforward. As noted above, South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong listed three conditions that his nation requests Tokyo to meet: 1) scientific evidence, i.e., credible data, that the measure is acceptably safe; 2) in-depth prior consultations, meaning two-way exchange in which Japan is prepared to alter its plans based on justified requests from South Korea; and 3) the inclusion of South Korean experts in the IAEA’s verification process, meaning those experts will have the right to reject data and findings. We believe that all of these clearly fall within the scope of inclusive stakeholder engagement, and should, in fact, have been proactively offered to neighboring countries by the Japanese Government during its years-long deliberation process. That they were not suggests the depth of the sincerity of Japanese government bodies regarding future inclusive gestures.

 S.Korea shows some understanding to treated water; NHK World, April 19, 2021:

Musical interlude: Becoming Fukushima

Tue, 05/04/2021 - 06:47


We were very honored that Scottish composer Katrina Gordon agreed to write and record a new piece for the Safecast 10 anniversary livestream.  Katrina is an accomplished contemporary composer with an experimental bent, and as we discussed  Safecast and our data, she asked us to send her a set of data points from different locations over time. From that she selected three locations, and composed a solo piece for each based on the data: Fukushima Daiichi, for flute, performed by Emily Benyon in Amsterdam; Pripyat, for piano, performed by Penny Watson in Glasgow; and Koriyama, Fukushima, for cello, performed by Su-a Lee, in Speyside, Scotland. The performances are marvelous and beautifully produced on video by Belinda Hawes. Katrina’s moving programme note is below.

Composer’s Programme Note by Katrina Gordon

This musical offering has been inspired directly by Safecast data points from three locations, spanning the 10 years since the Fukushima disaster.

The data were respected as “objective truths”: as composer I merely facilitated the telling of their story by translating the numbers into musical tone-rows. Each location was therefore enabled to reveal its own song of “becoming” through time.

I’m very grateful to our three storytellers: Emily on flute, Penny on piano and Su-a on ‘cello. Once the data had passed through my heart and mind to create the written score, these three amazing musicians each rose to the task of allowing the tone-row to flow through their hearts, and so the story of the unfolding of these three locations can be told. As with life, nothing is fixed: everything is interpreted.

I am a “nuclear child”, created entirely as a result of my parents meeting as co-workers at Dounreay Nuclear Power Station in Scotland. I grew up in the loving embrace of that power station community.

My heart broke in 1986 and again in 2011, feeling true compassion and kinship with the communities surrounding Chernobyl and Fukushima. “Becoming Fukushima” is a token offering of respect, compassion and optimism for both of those communities. It reminds us all of our common experience: life itself is always a “managed risk”, wherever we are and whatever we do.


SAFECAST-10 EVENT: “Read the Air” — Thu, April 22 18:00 JST

Thu, 04/15/2021 - 11:15

— Introducing the Most-Easy-to-Use Air Quality Monitor Ever Built! The Airnote with Safecast —

— Join the competition to win an Airnote (by April 20th) see below! —

“Read the Air”: This year, Safecast is introducing several IoT devices including the Airnote, the Most-Easy-to-Use Air Quality Monitor Ever Built!, and the bGeigie Zen, the exciting follow up to the bGeigie nano, featuring a unique mobile radiation sensor.

This online/offline hybrid event in collaboration with FabCafe Tokyo will be featuring guest speakers Prof. Shigeru Kobayashi (Professor of Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences [IAMAS]), Ray Ozzie (Blues Wireless), Rob Oudendijk (Safecast), Mat Schaffer (Safecast) and Tim Wong (Loftwork and FabCafe Taiwan).



To celebrate Earth Day 2021, Safecast and FabCafe are organizing an online/offline hybrid event featuring several new environmental data tracking IoT devices including the Airnote, the Most-Easy-to-Use Air Quality Monitor Ever Built!, and the bGeigie Zen, the new and improved bGeigie followup to the bGeigie nano which features a unique mobile radiation sensor. Safecast is the leading global Citizen Science project that brings open environmental data collected by volunteers around the world.

The Airnote is an air quality monitoring solution built by Blues Wireless, in partnership with Safecast. Perfect for home, business, and community use, it includes subscription free cellular data across 130 countries, on-device insights, and a complete picture of your environment in a web-based dashboard provided as open data by Safecast. Ray Ozzie, founder of Blues Wireless, will join remotely from Boston, US to talk about the Airnote and the technology that is powering it.

The bGeigie Zen is a mobile radiation sensor based on Safecast original bGeigie. The Zen takes IoT design to the next level by using standard building blocks such as the M5 and a new sensor board, the SafePulse, to build the most cost-effective, easy to build mobile measurement platform. Rob Oudendijk is leading the team designing the bGeigieZen and will talk about how the bGeigie Zen works and what makes it’s design unique.

We will also be joined by Prof. Shigeru Koboyashi, a hero in the world of Arduino/DIY, who will provide his views on where we’re heading with IoT and environmental measurement in Japan and Tim Wong, from Loftwork and FabCafe Taipei, long time Safecast collaborator and creative community builder, who will share with us his insights about these new IoT devices. Safecast co-founder Pieter Frank and Safecast Lead Researcher, Azby Brown, will be joining the cross talk.

Recommended for:
・People who are interested in air quality monitoring and Internet of Things (IoT) devices
・People interested in Safecast and citizen science projects
・People interested in the latest innovations in mobile environmental data
・People interest in data visualization and open APIs

50 (Offline at FabCafe Tokyo)
100 (Online using Zoom)

Offline ticket @FabCafe Tokyo: ¥1,000 (includes 1 drink)
Online ticket @Zoom: Free*

*Donations are always appreciated!

When: Thu, April 22, 2021 18:00 – 22:00 Doors open at 17:30 (UTC+09:00)


Show Us Your Air, Get an Airnote!

In celebration of IoT Day on April 9th, and Earth Day on April 22nd, blue wireless is giving a handful of Airnotes away!

From April 8th to April 20th, we’re running a contest called Show us your air, Get an Airnote. Film a 30 second video that shows us where you’d place an Airnote, and why you want to measure the air quality where you are. Then, post that video to a sharing service like YouTube or Vimeo and send blue wireless the link by April 20th. Blue wireless will send free Airnotes to the creators of the 5 best videos and announce the winners on Earth Day, April 22nd. For details check out the official page here!



Shigeru Kobayashi

Professor, Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences [IAMAS]

Shigeru Kobayashi explores methods for people with diverse skills, perspectives, and experiences to collaborate on innovation using open source hardware and digital fabrication, and the appropriate rules for dealing with the intellectual property created in the process. He is the author of Prototyping Lab 2nd Edition and Idea Sketching. He is the general director of Ogaki Mini Maker Faire, a biennial maker movement festival held in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture, since 2010.


Ray Ozzie

CEO of Blues Wireless

Ray has long been a pioneer in the areas of communications and social productivity. Through late 2010 he served as chief software architect of Microsoft, the company’s most senior technical leadership role that he assumed following its acquisition of Groove Networks – a company he founded in 1997 to develop software for secure peer-to-peer business team collaboration. Ozzie currently serves as a director of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Safecast, and Balena, and serves as CEO of Blues Wireless. Prior to Groove, in 1984 Ozzie was founder and CEO of Iris Associates, the creator and developer of Lotus Notes that was ultimately acquired by Lotus and IBM. Under his leadership, Lotus Notes grew to be used for e-Mail and low-code collaborative applications by hundreds of millions at most major enterprises worldwide.

Ozzie has been part of the PC industry since its inception, having led development of Symphony at Lotus, and as a developer on the teams developing 1-2-3 at Lotus and VisiCalc at Software Arts. Previously, he served on the National Research Council’s Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, and as a director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).


Rob Oudendijk

Safecast bGeigieZen Lead Researcher

Goals: Learn to understand life and so: – to contribute to make life for all people better. – not only present but also future generations. – contribute towards resolving conflicts in the world. Experience in chronological order: Learning experience: – Learn from my mother. – learned from nature. – Learned from friends and teachers. –


Mat Schaffer

Observability Engineer at Elastic Cloud

Mat is an Engineer and Team Lead at Elastic Cloud who loves working with high scale cloud operations and time series data. His career has spanned from enterprises to startups, Java to Ruby and many others. At Safecast, he helps organize the API team, maintains Cloud infrastructure, builds new data exploration features, and keeps our wonderful data open and available for the world to benefit.


Tim Wong

FabCafe Taipei / Loftwork Taiwan co-founder

Tim was born in Hong Kong and lived in the US for 17 years. He relocated to Taiwan in 2008, because he believes Taiwan has the good opportunity to create a creative platform that cultivates innovative ideas and projects with creative talents from different background.

Before co-founding FabCafe Taipei in 2013 and Loftwork Taiwan in 2014, He has been an urban design practitioner for 7 years and worked on urban design projects across the US, Middle East, and various Asian cities. He graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Design with dual Master degrees in Architecture and Urban Design.


Azby Brown

Writer, Safecast researcher, leading authority on Japanese architecture, design, and environmentalism

AZBY BROWN is a native of New Orleans, and has lived in Japan since 1985. He is a leading authority on Japanese architecture, design, and environmentalism, and the author of The Very Small Home (2005), Just Enough: Lessons in living green from traditional Japan (2010), and The Genius of Japanese Carpentry (2014). Since the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster in March 2011, Azby has been lead researcher for Safecast, a highly successful global volunteer-based citizen-science organization devoted to developing new technology platforms for crowdsourced environmental monitoring which promote open-source and open data principles. In his writing and media appearances, Azby offers a credible, critical, and independent voice to counter partisan talking points.


Pieter Franken

Co-founder of Safecast

Pieter is co-founder of Safecast. His career in Financial Services spans over 25 years, specializing in O&T, Fintech, innovation and large-scale transformations. He has held C-level and executive positions with industry leaders such as Citigroup, Shinsei Bank, Aplus, Monex Securities and Monex Group. Pieter is Senior Advisor to Monex Group and is Vice-Chair of the Alternate Investments Committee (AIC) of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ). He is a member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) International Technology Advisory Panel (ITAP) and is Board Director at AFIN, a MAS/ABA/IFC co-founded initiative to accelerate Financial Inclusion across Asia and the Middle East. He’s a much looked after advisor and expert speaker on a wide range of topics and is known for providing deep insights pulling from is wide experience in IT, financial services, and innovation management.



Offline Venue – FabCafe Tokyo
150-0043 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 1-22-7 Dogenzaka Pier 1F
tel. 03-6416-9190
View on Google Map

Leaders speak out

Mon, 04/12/2021 - 10:05

This week we highlight a few of the leaders who joined us for the Safecast 10th anniversary mobile livestream event last month.  Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Dr. Jun Murai, and Chiaki Hayashi have all been key supporters and advisors of Safecast, each with a different focus and background. All of them have brought a new style of leadership to their fields, and Safecast is happy to have benefitted from their insight over the past decade.

Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa spent most of his six-decade career involved in public health, in Japan, at the WHO, and elsewhere, and has been an executive member of many national and international professional societies. He was professor of medicine at UCLA (1979-84), at the University of Tokyo (‘89-‘96), was the Dean of Tokai University Medical School (‘96-‘02); the President of the Science Council of Japan (2003-06); and Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan (‘06-‘08). Following the Fukushima disaster, he was appointed chair of Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) by the National Diet of Japan (‘11-‘12), which produced a scathing report which focussed on institutional behavior and responsibility within the Japanese government and TEPCO. He joined us at Safecast 10 to talk about leadership, both the consistent qualities that have always been necessary and the ever-changing new requirements that require adaptive leadership to emerge. (In Japanese and English)


Dr. Jun Murai is known as the Father of the Internet in Japan, having established JUNET, the first network in Japan connecting multiple universities, in 1984. He is a Special Advisor to the Cabinet in Japan and serves on many other governmental committees. He is a Distinguished Professor at Keio University, and in 1988, he established the WIDE Project, a Japanese Internet research consortium, which provided essential cooperative support for Safecast beginning in 2011. Dr. Murai contributed a video statement for Safecast 10 in which he congratulates Safecast on its role in achieving wide recognition of the benefits of Open Data and looks towards the future.(In English with Japanese subtitles)


Chiaki Hayashi has been recognized as a visionary female Japanese business leader. She founded Loftwork in 2000, which became Safecast’s home base in Tokyo in 2012. Hayashi has spearheaded many business and development innovations, including using digital technology to better utilize and promote traditional crafts, such as wood fabrication, and their inherent environmental sensibility. She is a member of the Good Design Awards Screening Committee and METI’s Industrial Construction Council Manufacturing Industry Subcommittee “Study Group on Competitiveness and Design.” Notably she was named Woman Of The Year 2017 by Nikkei. In this video segment she talks with Pieter Franken about design innovation and what she sees the particular strengths and significance of Safecast’s design approach. (In Japanese with English subtitles)



Ray Ozzie and IoT

Fri, 04/09/2021 - 02:06

April 9th is IoT Day, with virtual conferences, lunches, and events being held around the world.  In commemoration we wanted to share the segment titled called “Ray’s Big Reveal” from the Safecast 10 global livestream held on March 13, 2021.  In it, Safecast senior advisor Ray Ozzie showcases his design thinking and how that led to the networked sensors he’s designed for Safecast, including a game-changing new one called Airnote, which is a very compact and inexpensive networked air quality sensor now being deployed worldwide. Ray was recently named to the Computer History Museum Hall of Fellows, a resounding confirmation of his pioneering influence on computing and the tech industry. The many moving testimonies heard from Ray’s colleagues at the CHM event attest to his focus on building tools that help us communicate better and more freely. 


Ray was instrumental in helping Safecast get up and running in 2011, even providing our name. He has engineered an unprecedented series of networked sensors for Safecast, including the original Solarcast, the Solarcast Nano, and a slew of skunk works projects, at each step making them more compact and reliable, particularly in how they connect to the internet. Ray’s designs are a convincing demonstration that web-connected devices — the Internet of Things — can empower citizens to better monitor their environment and share the data openly. 

Safecast’s fixed radiation and air quality sensors provide continuous data over time from a single location, which is complimentary to the mobile mapping data gathered by bGeigies. A major challenge has been to deploy totally self-contained “drop and forget” realtime devices which are rugged, self-powered, and connect to the internet wirelessly even in harsh and inaccessible locations like the Fukushima exclusion zone. Ray’s designs have incrementally pushed the envelope in this regard, and the Airnote is astoundingly simple in setup and operation. Ray has solved one of the biggest connectivity issues — the need to maintain cellular data accounts over years of unattended operation — by developing the Notecard, a compact cellular modem which comes with 12 years of prepaid connectivity. With Airnote and Notecard, Safecast is poised to rapidly expand our air quality sensor network around the world over the coming months. A radiation-detecting cousin of the Airnote is now in late prototyping and testing.

Since the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ was coined in 1999, IoT has become many things to many people, but primarily it’s about networks, devices, and data. As IoT devices and ecosystems have proliferated, society has gained sometimes painful experience regarding their security and privacy, and the IoT community itself is actively engaged in establishing globally applicable standards to address these issues. We think openness should be built in from the start, and often joke that an over-emphasis on closed IoT systems has resulted in quite a few devices that once looked promising but soon became bricks — what Safecast co-founder Pieter Franken dubbed “The Internet of Nothing.”  

As we celebrate IoT day, we want to celebrate Ray and his achievements as well. Thanks to him, Safecast has greater reach and impact than we ever thought possible. Watch and enjoy!


NFT Fundraiser on OpenSea

Mon, 04/05/2021 - 17:51

When Safecast started we took inspiration from the worlds we already lived in. Hackerspaces, DIY, Technoarts, Design, Open… these things are deeply woven into our DNA as an organization and a community. In the last decade we’ve continued to pull in passions from other areas of our lives, intentionally blurring the lines between work and play. An obvious example of this is music, if you’ve seen or been to any of our events you know we’re always including musicians and live music in the programming and most recently the launch of SAFECAST.LIVE which brings to question where the lines are between science and art, and how one can influence or even create the other.

Over the last 10 years we’ve spent a significant amount of time around the blockchain. We’ve worked closely with Keio University’s Blockchain Research Lab and MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative. We’ve explored the potential of using blockchain technology to validate sensor measurements to protect against 3rd party institutions or governmental tampering. If you joined us for any part of our 10th anniversary 24 hour livestream then you probably know 2020 was a bad year for us financially, as quarantines and lockdowns stood in the way many of our normal streams of funding. As a non-profit our relationship with money is always precarious and a bit of a balancing act, but 2020 got deep into very uncomfortable territory. So it’s no surprise that we’ve been paying attention to what’s been happening the world of NFTs. The combination of art and technology is obviously fascinating, but the added potential to provide another stream of funding to allow us to keep doing the work we do here seemed like something we couldn’t ignore. So it’s with that reason I’m excited to announce our first NFT Fundraiser which we’re launching on OpenSea.

First and foremost we’ve created the nftGeigie! This is a fun bitmapped nod to the punks and kitties which where the innovators of the space, as well as riff on our continued weird naming conventions. We made an edition of 10 of these with the G sticker which will be offered for a flat price of Ξ0.5, as well as 10 individually numbered versions that we’ll put to auction. Next up, we thought it would be cool to be able to “buy” some of our more significant drives, so we’ve minted NFTs of our first bGeigie Log files from Tokyo, Fukushima and Chernobyl. Look at these as the beginning of an ongoing series. While these are each one of a kind items, in the future we may issue NFTs for other cities and noteworthy locations. Finally, KETHER CORTEX has donated several pieces of concept art from his work on SAFECAST.LIVE which provide a wonderful view behind the curtain so to speak of thoughts and ideas that evolved and found their way into the final work.

All auctions are live now, beginning at Ξ0.1 and will run for 5 days. This is a fundraiser and proceeds will go to keep our servers online and keep Safecast going. Let’s see what the NFT community can do!



Mon, 04/05/2021 - 03:54

The Safecast 10th Anniversary global mobile livestream event held on Sunday March 13th was a huge success. With participants from 15 countries spanning approximately 20 time zones, the livestream resulted in over 16 hours of video streamed through Zoom and YouTube. We posted the full YouTube stream and five-hour chunks recorded through Zoom shortly after the event finished, and have spent the intervening weeks cutting the full stream into 40 shorter and more easily viewable sections. These videos are now available online at the SAFECAST TV YouTube page

We have made separate playlists for The Ride  and The Roundtable sections of the event, which allow the videos to be easily viewed in sequence or separately. There’s a lot there, alternately engaging, informative, and entertaining.

Over the coming weeks we will be posting highlights from the SAFECAST-10 video collection. First we’ll hear from some award-winning journalists and storytellers who have spent considerable time in Fukushima documenting the scientific and social aspects of the disaster. 

Miles O’Brien has a long and stellar resume, notably as the science correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, and as a producer, director, writer and correspondent for the PBS documentary programs NOVA and FRONTLINE, among others. He traveled to Japan six times in the wake of the Tōhoku Earthquake and wrote, produced and directed three documentaries on the meltdowns in addition to a dozen magazine length stories for the PBS NewsHour. He has spent a lot of time with Safecast in Fukushima over the years, and provided us with welcome and knowledgeable media coverage. He joined the SAFECAST-10 event live from Boston to talk about transparency. He shared images and observations about his Fukushima trips, and reminisced with Safecaster Joe Moross about some of the dicier situations they found themselves in (In English):


Multimedia storyteller Ari Beser first met up with Safecast in 2015 when he spent nine months in Japan as Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow <>.  His photo and video work has been widely published in leading media outlets worldwide. He is a member of ICAN (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), which became a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 2017. His book, The Nuclear Family, deals with both of his grandfathers’ experiences with the atomic bombs used by the United States in Japan during World War II, and was later made into an award winning documentary film. He is creator, showrunner and executive producer of the new documentary series A Jewish Life.  Ari joined the livestream from New York to talk about his “nuclear” family history, the Olympics, and the people of Fukushima (In English and Japanese):


As always, we welcome your support! DONATE HERE

The playlist for the entire Ride portion of the event can be found HERE.

The playlist for the entire Roundtable portion can be found HERE.

Safecast TV on YouTube


Safecast Live

Fri, 03/12/2021 - 22:43

If you’ve been playing keen attention you know that here at Safecast we have a very passionate creative thread running through all of our work. If you are going to make something, you might as well make it beautiful. And just because a geiger counter is used to measure radiation doesn’t mean it can’t also be used to make some music. Even raw environmental data can be used in ways unexpected. And it’s with that in mind, that I’m incredibly excited to announce a brand new usage of the incoming Safecast data feed: SAFECAST.LIVE

I wrote a little about this on my personal website:

If your first reaction is that this feels more like an art project, you aren’t wrong. Last year my friend Ray Ozzie came across Listen To Wikipedia and sent it my way. I fell in love with the this way to “visualize” data with sounds, and it reminded me a lot of the concept behind many of Brian Eno’s ambient works that have deep systems in place to create ever evolving soundscapes rather than simple repeating loops. We discussed how Safecast’s data stream might lend itself to a similar audio experience. But we were busy at the time and the idea, as ideas sometimes do, kinda faded away. A few months back Ray surprised me – in preparation of the new air sensors coming online he’d been playing with the data stream and had put together a feed that he pointed to some test samples and it kind of worked. He handed me the keys and wished me luck. My mind was racing and I immediately started working on new samples from my synthesizers and sample collections I had, and trying to think of what kind of visual front end would go with it?

My friend, designer Rob Sheridan, runs a pretty fantastic discord server filled with creative people from many disciplines. I posted there asking if any front end developers might have some spare time to help out with a little project. Almost immediately I was contacted by a developer in the Ukraine, Kether Cortex, and we started trading notes and ideas. Aesthetically we clicked right away, and when he reminded me that the Nine Inch Nails Ghosts I-IV album was Creative Commons licensed, I knew this was going to shape up to be even better than I’d imagined. Since then Kether Cortex and I have spoken every day, refining and reimagining the idea every step of the way. The production version which launches today is the culmination of those many hours. I don’t want to give away too many secrets as it’s intended to provide a space for exploration. I will say there are several different audio options, all of which are being driven by the data feed which is random and constantly evolving. As new sensors come online daily it will continue to change. In addition to the NIN sample, and ones I recorded myself, we’re using some samples provided by Hainbach and Samples From Mars. Find one you like, and you can listen to it forever and

My friend, designer Rob Sheridan, runs a pretty fantastic discord server filled with creative people from many disciplines. I posted there asking if any front end developers might have some spare time to help out with a little project. Almost immediately I was contacted by a developer in the Ukraine, Kether Cortex, and we started trading notes and ideas. Aesthetically we clicked right away, and when he reminded me that the Nine Inch Nails Ghosts I-IV album was Creative Commons licensed, I knew this was going to shape up to be even better than I’d imagined. Since then Kether Cortex and I have spoken every day, refining and reimagining the idea every step of the way. The production version which launches today is the culmination of those many hours. I don’t want to give away too many secrets as it’s intended to provide a space for exploration. I will say there are several different audio options, all of which are being driven by the data feed which is random and constantly evolving. As new sensors come online daily it will continue to change. In addition to the NIN sample, and ones I recorded myself, we’re using some samples provided by Hainbach and Samples From Mars. Find one you like, and you can listen to it forever and the pattern will never repeat. There’s no real purpose for this other than as a reminder that you can sometimes find some beauty in the chaos. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

PRESS RELEASE: Blues Wireless and Safecast Introduce Airnote – the Most-Easy-to-Use Air Quality Monitor Ever Built

Wed, 03/10/2021 - 04:33


Blues Wireless and Safecast Introduce Airnote
– the Most-Easy-to-Use Air Quality Monitor Ever Built –

Safecast will deploy Airnote devices at Fukushima during a live-streamed 10 year anniversary event.

Boston, MA and Tokyo, Japan – March 9, 2021 – Safecast, a global leader in open environmental data, and Blues Wireless, a leading developer of IoT cloud cellular solutions, today announced Airnote, an air quality monitoring device with unprecedented simplicity and cost-effectiveness. By removing complexity and barriers to use, Airnote enables the mass deployment of air quality sensors at a cost of nearly half that of other products on the market.

“Ten years ago, the crisis at Fukushima brought together many talented individuals from around the globe to serve a common purpose: enable people to understand the conditions impacting the safety of their environment,” said Ray Ozzie, founder of Blues Wireless and Safecast volunteer. “The nonprofit organization Safecast, Blues Wireless, and ultimately the Airnote device were all borne as a result of this collaboration.”

All of the air quality measurements collected by Airnote are sent directly to the Safecast platform and published into the public domain as part of their global environmental dataset.

To date, air quality, water quality, radiation, and other aspects of the environment have involved expensive equipment, careful site work for device placement, and challenges in establishing reliable outdoor network connectivity. Airnote is a fully integrated zero-setup solar-powered device that easily attaches to the outside of any sunny window. At regular intervals, Airnote automatically uploads air quality data using cellular networks in more than 130 countries, no registration or network setup required. Airnote includes a pre-paid/pre-activated data plan that will run for the entire lifetime of the device.

These capabilities are enabled by the Blues Wireless Notecard, a small data pump that manufacturers embed within their products to greatly simplify the task of securely moving data to and from the cloud over cellular networks. Blues Wireless began first volume shipments of the Notecard this past December.

The Airnote rear features a display showing the air quality, viewable from the inside

Airnote provides information on a display or users can scan its QR code and view charts and graphs online. The device measures temperature, humidity, air pressure, and density of particulate matter in PM1, PM2.5, and PM10. Data uploaded by Airnote devices benefits everyone, designated into the public domain at birth. Through, the Blues Wireless real-time data router, and Safecast’s databases and maps, data is available worldwide for analysis, education, or even commercial use. While data is anonymous by default, device owners can optionally claim devices and be credited for data uploads.

“While Fukushima was an unequivocal disaster, the event presented us with an opportunity to better plan for the future and safety of our environment,” said Pieter Franken, co-founder and Japan director of Safecast. “The global data we’ll receive from Airnote will accelerate the pace of citizen-led open data, moving us towards a healthier global environment, while enabling faster and more efficient reactions to future crises.”

Airnote is available to order at and will be featured during Safecast’s live-streamed driving tour of Fukushima and surrounding communities on March 13, 2021. The tour will pay tribute to the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima accident and Safecast’s founding. Throughout the event, Safecast volunteers, including Ray Ozzie, will talk to residents and people involved with the accident, as well as current supporters of worldwide environmental monitoring solutions. Safecast will install dozens of Airnote devices along the way.

The day-long event will begin Saturday, March 13 at 9 am JST (Friday, March 12 at 7 pm EST) and will be broadcast live via YouTube. There will be opportunities for viewers to ask questions and otherwise engage in the event. To participate please register for free or reserve premium seats at


About Blues Wireless

Founded in 2019, Blues Wireless is the creator of Notecard, the fastest and most cost-effective way to add wireless connectivity to any product. Notecard is a highly secure system on a module (SoM) with embedded 10-year global connectivity that allows any developer to send data from remote assets using JSON and two-lines of code. The data is routed to the cloud applications of customers’ choice, again using simple JSON and REST. Blues’s customers represent leading and innovative companies spanning agriculture, automotive, construction, healthcare, industrial, manufacturing, retail, supply chain & cold chain, transportation, and logistics. Use cases range from simple tracking and remote monitoring to edge analytics and remote control. Blues is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Please connect with us at or visit for more information.


About Safecast

“Safecast has revolutionized citizen-science.” (Popular Mechanics, March 2018). Safecast is an international, nonprofit, volunteer organization devoted to collecting open environmental data. After the 2011 Fukushima meltdown, open & trustworthy information was unavailable–Safecast was formed in response, and quickly began monitoring, collecting, and sharing environmental radiation data. Growing quickly in size, scope, and geographical reach, Safecast’s mission is to provide people worldwide with the tools they need to inform themselves by gathering and sharing reliable environmental data in an open and participatory fashion. For more information, please visit, or reach out to


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