From Democracy Now
On our final day of our special broadcast from Tokyo, we speak with a Japanese resident from the town that housed part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant who is participating in weekly protests against the resumption of nuclear power in her country. “We couldn’t bring anything from our houses. We didn’t have a toothbrush. We didn’t have a blanket. We didn’t have towels. We had nothing. It was truly hell, and we thought it would be much better to die. But now, we are here, and we can’t really give up. We want to fight for this cause,” Yukiko Kameya said as she attended a demonstration outside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence. “We told the prime minister many times, every week here, that we are against the reopening of the nuclear facilities, but it doesn’t seem that he gets it. He just does whatever he wants to do anyway.”
AMY GOODMAN: We are on the road in Tokyo, Japan, broadcasting for the third of our three days of specials. Japan is getting ready to mark the third anniversary of one of the world’s worst atomic disasters. It was March 11th, 2011, when a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that struck Japan’s northeast coast. What began as a natural disaster quickly cascaded into a man-made one, as system after system failed at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Three of the six reactors suffered meltdowns, releasing deadly radiation into the atmosphere and the ocean.
Three years later, Japan is still reeling from the impact of the disaster. More than 340,000 people became nuclear refugees, forced to abandon their homes and their livelihoods. Entire towns were forced to evacuate, including Futaba, a town that housed part of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Before March 11, 2011, nearly 7,000 people lived in the town. Today Futaba is a nuclear ghost town. The government relocated many of the residents to an abandoned school near Tokyo, where they live in cramped, shared common areas, many families to a room, are provided with three box lunches per day. The refugees were given permits to return home to collect personal items, but only for two hours.
Just before this broadcast, Democracy Now! producer Mike Burke spoke with an evacuee from Futaba. She was one of hundreds of anti-nuclear protesters who were outside the official residence of the Japanese prime minister demonstrating.
YUKIKO KAMEYA: [translated] My name is Yukiko Kameya. I’m from Futaba, which was 2.1 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility. Right now, we have evacuated, and we are living in a temporary housing in Tokyo in a space provided by the government. It’s close here, so I’m coming here every Friday to demonstrate against the nuclear power facilities. When we fled Futaba, we had nothing. We lost everything. We couldn’t bring anything from our house. We didn’t have a toothbrush. We didn’t have a blanket. We didn’t have towels. We had nothing. It was truly hell, and we thought it would be much better to die. But now we are here, and we can’t really give up. We want to fight for this cause. When I fled from to Futaba, I couldn’t even talk. I couldn’t even have friends over or anything. But my people encouraged me to be standing here right now. Without the people’s help, I couldn’t be here. That’s why I appreciate them, and I want to join them in their call.
MIKE BURKE: And what is your message to the Japanese government and the world about nuclear power?
YUKIKO KAMEYA: [translated] I don’t want anyone in the world to experience what we have experienced. We have houses in Futaba, but there’s nothing there. Everything is robbed. All the furniture was broken. I can’t really go back there. We know it. We don’t want anyone in the world to be in the situation we are in. There are 59 children with thyroid problem, and there are hundreds more on the way. The real problem in Fukushima is children cannot go out and play. They have to stay inside, and this is not the way children should grow up. I don’t want anyone in the world, or Japan, to experience this type of situation for children, so I want to stop nuclear facilities now, and I don’t want them to be continued.
MIKE BURKE: Do you think you’ll ever be able to return to your home?
YUKIKO KAMEYA: [translated] The Futaba where I lived is not livable, and the government says so. So I know we are never going back in my entire life. But for the Fukushima prefecture, it is still not safe. The radiation level is still very high, so I don’t think it’s safe, and I don’t think we’ll go back there.
MIKE BURKE: And what is your assessment of how the government has handled the crisis?
YUKIKO KAMEYA: [translated] We expected our government to do a better job when this accident happened, but they don’t really do what you want. They ignore all the problems we are having. There are many young people between 15 and 19 in Fukushima who are in high school, who have died suddenly. For example, this morning, I saw online a story that a 17-year-old died from leukemia. In the morning, when his mother came to wake him up, he was found dead in bed. Everyone says this was caused by the radiation level from the nuclear accident, but our government never recognized it. And there are many children, 59 children, with thyroid cancer. They will never recognize it as being caused by the radiation.
MIKE BURKE: We’re standing right now outside the prime minister’s official residency. What is your message to the prime minister?
YUKIKO KAMEYA: [translated] We told the prime minister many times, every week here, that we are against the reopening of the nuclear facilities. But it doesn’t seem that he gets it. He just does whatever he wants to do anyway. In Futaba, when we had a meeting with TEPCO, we were told the facility is very, very safe. Now we know it is not safe at all. And we’ve been telling the prime minister it’s not safe, so do not restart, but it doesn’t seem like it’s getting through to him. My real feeling is that I want to go back to Futaba-machi in Fukushima, but I know we can’t go back. And I dream of it every day. And I know we cannot go back, so I don’t want anyone in the world to feel this way. We want to stop it now.
AMY GOODMAN: Those were the words of Yukiko Kameya. She is a former resident of Futaba, which is the town where part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is located. She fled her home after the nuclear meltdown and will likely never be able to return home. When we come back from break, we’ll be joined by the former mayor of Futaba. Stay with us.
We speak with Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of the town of Futaba where part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located. The entire town was rendered uninhabitable by the nuclear disaster. We ask him what went through his mind after the earthquake and tsunami hit on March 11, 2011. “It was a huge surprise, and at the time I was just hoping nothing that had happened at the nuclear power plant. However, unfortunately there was in fact an accident there,” Idogawa recalls. He made a decision to evacuate his town before the Japanese government told people to leave. “If I had made that decision even three hours earlier, I would have been able to prevent so many people from being exposed to radiation.” For years he encouraged nuclear power development in the area; now he has become a vocal critic. He explains that the government and the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company, always told him, “’Don’t worry, Mayor. No accident could ever happen.’ Because this promise was betrayed, this is why I became anti-nuclear.”
AMY GOODMAN: Music from the film Nuclear Nation: The Fukushima Refugees Story. This isDemocracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. This is the third day of our broadcast from Tokyo, Japan, and the final day. We are talking about moving in on the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. Nineteen thousand people died or went missing on that day, March 11th, 2011, and the days afterwards, when the earthquake triggered a tsunami, and three of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant melted down.
We’re joined right now by Futaba’s former mayor, Katsutaka Idogawa. For years, he embraced nuclear power. Now he has become a vocal critic. He is featured in the film Nuclear Nation.
We welcome you to Democracy Now! And thank you for traveling two hours to join us here at the studios of NHK International for this conversation. Mayor, explain what happened on that day—special thanks to Mary Joyce, who is translating for you today—on that day, March 11, 2011, and the days afterwards, when you decided it was time for the thousands of people who lived in your town, Futaba, to leave.
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] On that day, there was an earthquake of the scale of something we’d never experienced before. It was a huge surprise. And at the time, I was just hoping that nothing had happened to the nuclear power plant. However, unfortunately, there was in fact an accident there. And then I worked with the many residents, and thinking about how I could fully evacuate them from the radiation.
AMY GOODMAN: You made a decision to evacuate your town before the Japanese government told the people in the area to do this, but not before the U.S. government told Americans to leave the area and other governments said the same.
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] Yes, the Japanese government’s information to evacuate became much later than that, and my mistake at the time was initially waiting to hear that. If I had made the decision even three hours earlier, I would have been able to prevent so many people from being so heavily exposed to radiation; however, as a result of that, unfortunately, several hundreds of people were directly affected by this radiation.
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you decide to move the whole town?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] I was originally thinking about this at the time of the earthquake on March 11 first. However, at first, I was waiting to rely on the government information to decide the timing for this.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, you moved the town to a school in the outskirts of Tokyo, is that right? The entire town to an abandoned school? Explain how you set up your government, your whole community, in this one building.
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] Right at the start, we were unfortunately not able to evacuate all of the residents, and some actually did remain within parts of Fukushima prefecture. And as a result of this, there was actually a gap created between those who were still remaining within the greater Fukushima prefecture area and those who evacuated to Saitama, outside of Tokyo. And the reason for this is we had no access to communication, to information, to mobile phones.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, how long did people stay? How many people were in this school? And what role did the government play? How has the government helped the refugees?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] We were able to evacuate around 1,400 of the residents to Saitama prefecture, outside of Tokyo. So they were saved from the initial first exposure, the most serious exposure to radiation at the time. But many of them, unable to deal with the situation, gradually started to return to different parts of Fukushima prefecture.
AMY GOODMAN: You have not returned back to your town?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] Yes, I am still living in evacuation away from the heavily radiated areas.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the meetings that you have had with the government? You have had a remarkable association of nuclear mayors in Japan, the mayors who live—who preside over towns that have nuclear power plants in them.
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] From before the accident, we had always been strongly calling upon the government, and also TEPCO, to make sure that no accident was ever allowed to happen. And they were always telling us, “Don’t worry, Mayor. No accident could ever happen.” However, because this promise was betrayed, this is why I became anti-nuclear.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip from Atsushi Funahashi’s new documentary film about the former residents of Futaba, where the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant is partly located. The film is called Nuclear Nation: The Fukushima Refugees Story. And we’re going to go to a part of the film that shows a part of this remarkable meeting of government officials with the atomic mayors, the nuclear mayors of Japan.
BANRI KAIEDA: [translated] The future of energy production and Japanese energy policy is currently being debated, and this is something we’ve communicated to you. Regarding the details of this review, I believe it’s important to clearly define the terms as soon as possible. Thank you very much.
MARC CARPENTIER, Narrator: The industry minister leaves his seat in the first five minutes.
GOSHI HOSONO: [translated] The central and prefectural governments are working on the annual health check guidelines. Based on what we’ve researched until now, the impact of radiation on children appears negligible. However, we will endeavor to keep you apprised of any developments.
MARC CARPENTIER: The nuclear crisis minister follows suit, citing official duties.
CHAIRPERSON: [translated] And now, we’d like to open the floor for comments. Please raise your hands. OK, go ahead.
MAYOR KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] I’m representing Futaba. I want to know why we’re being made to feel this way. It’s frustrating. What does the nuclear power committee think? When you came and explained it to us, you lied, saying it was safe and secure. But we, who trusted and believed you, can no longer live in our own town.
AMY GOODMAN: That last voice was the mayor at the time of Futaba, Katsutaka Idogawa, who is with us today in our Tokyo studio. Futaba is where part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located. He was speaking, addressing this meeting of government officials and nuclear mayors from around Japan in August of 2011. You just heard, oh, the voices of Goshi Hosono, who was the nuclear crisis minister of Japan, and Banri Kaieda, a minister of the economy, trade and industry. And after each of them spoke, they politely took their leave of the room before the mayors could address them, so they did not hear the Futaba mayor’s statement about the lies from the government. Talk about that particular meeting.
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] At the time, we were calling for a strong response and attention from the government since the disaster. However, they didn’t even try to listen to what we were calling for. And they continued to not even try to make efforts to fulfill their responsibilities or promise to us. And so, they continued to appear before us, those who were suffering directly from the disaster, but instead of listening to something which would maybe be difficult for their ears to hear, they would just leave the room, not even listen to us at all. And within those who were left in the room were some government officials, including some who were directly the ones who told me that no accident would ever happen. However, no matter what I would try to appeal and say to them, it would not have any effect, so instead I turned around and appealed and spoke to my colleagues, my fellow residents, and I tried to tell them what was really happening, the situation.
AMY GOODMAN: Former Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa, you were a fierce proponent of nuclear power. You were pushing for two more reactors to be built even closer to Futaba than the others. You were proud of getting tens of millions of dollars for your town for hosting these reactors. How did you make your transition to being one of the most vocal government officials against all nuclear power?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] I had been supporting the nuclear power plants in our town on the condition that no accident, no disaster, would be allowed to occur. It was not necessarily that I was actually totally in favor of the nuclear power plants; however, the situation that was in places without the nuclear power plants there, our city would be losing the financial benefits and perhaps unable to go forward economically. The city was actually on the brink of bankruptcy beforehand. And so, in order to try and prevent the city from going into this kind of economic breakdown, I saw that building the new two reactors was perhaps the only way.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip, another clip of Nuclear Nation, that gives us a little background on the town of Futaba.
MARC CARPENTIER: Futaba’s farming history goes back over a thousand years. In winter months, people had to leave town for work in the city. Reactors 5 and 6 came online in 1978 and ’79. Money flowed in from the government, and the townspeople found themselves with lots of extra cash. They built roads, a library, a sprawling sports center, and made major upgrades to the infrastructure.
AMY GOODMAN: Nuclear Nation, talking about nuclear refugees, the nuclear refugees of Futaba. And we’re joined by the former mayor, who made the decision, on his own, right after the earthquake, to move his entire town, to evacuate it to Tokyo, being deeply concerned about the levels of radiation and feeling that the government was lying to them about the dangers in the area. This was a mayor, Katsutaka Idogawa, who was fiercely for nuclear power, was proud to be able to get two more reactors in his town to build the economy, to get tens of millions of dollars, and then turned around after the meltdown, after the earthquake, the tsunami and the ultimate meltdown of three of the six existing reactors.
Mayor, right now, you are not the only one who turned around in office. Naoto Kan, the prime minister, also a fierce proponent, is now speaking out all over the world against nuclear power. But just this week, as we flew in to Japan, the government of Prime Minister Abe, the most conservative government since World War II, announced that it wants to build more reactors in Japan. How are you organizing? What are you doing now?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] Without being able to even deal with the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the position to promote nuclear power still is something which is just unthinkable to me. And I believe it’s really important for the prime minister to look at what he’s actually been responsible for and have regret and really deal with what they have done, before they can actually go forward and do anything. And the disaster now is bigger than anything we can cope with. It’s a disaster on an international level, and huge consequences, so he needs to really recognize this.
AMY GOODMAN: So who’s driving the push for more nuclear power? The country, already 30 percent dependent for its energy on nuclear power, had plans to make the country more than 50 percent by 2030. But after this catastrophe, who is pushing for these nuclear power plants?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] The nuclear power system is constructed to use huge amounts of public tax. And this is a very tasty, shall we say, position or situation for the large corporations. They were really behind this push. However, much public taxpayers’ money is being used behind this. And I believe it’s so important to prevent our taxes from being used for any of this kind.
AMY GOODMAN: What has happened to the Fukushima refugees today?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] There are so many people who want to evacuate but don’t have the means to be able to actually do that and are still living in this situation, who want to do something, but they have no support. And another huge issue is those who are still forced to be living within the greater Fukushima prefecture area do not have access to full health measurements, health treatments, and the kind of support that they need. And they’re also told that any diseases or sickness that they have is not caused by radiation.
AMY GOODMAN: You are traveling the world. Can you tell us the countries you’ve been to and why you’re speaking there?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] I’m working with people all around the world, speaking with people who are working against nuclear power in their own areas.
AMY GOODMAN: You went to Finland?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] I went to Finland to speak with people who are working against the construction of nuclear power plants in their areas, because they knew our situation and what happened to us, and we’re trying to work together to prevent this from ever happening to them.
AMY GOODMAN: In the United States, a nuclear power plant has not been built in close to 40 years, very much because of the anti-nuclear movement and the cost of what it means to build a nuclear power plant and what to do with the waste. But President Obama has talked about a nuclear renaissance and is pushing for the building of several new plants for the first time in decades. What message would you share with him?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] The nuclear power disaster is not just of Fukushima. This is a disaster of all humanity, of the entire world. There is a Japanese saying, and its meaning is that, well, any kind of disaster, three times is the limit. And we have had the three large disasters: one in the United States, one at Chernobyl, and now Fukushima. The Earth will not be able to cope with any further nuclear disasters. For the children of the future, the future generations, I hope that we can stop this now.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the alternative?
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] Well, I’ve heard in U.S. there is shale gas, for example. But as well as other forms of energy, I believe it’s also very important now to look at how we can have lifestyles that rely less on energy, that use less energy more efficient in our homes and in our offices. And Prime Minister Koizumi is also suggesting this.
AMY GOODMAN: Prime Minister Koizumi, very significant that a conservative former prime minister also came out against nuclear power.
KATSUTAKA IDOGAWA: [translated] Even he looked at the actual situation. And I believe that Prime Minister Koizumi really visited places affected by nuclear power to really see what is happening, and he’s really speaking sincerely now.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for joining us on Democracy Now!, Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of the town of Futaba, where part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located. The entire town was rendered uninhabitable by the nuclear meltdown. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Stay with us. After break, crowdsourcing radiation monitoring. We’ll look at how a group called Safecast has helped Japanese civilians turn their smartphones into Geiger counters. Stay with us.
Recent moves by the Japanese government to restart the country’s nuclear power plant facilities have been met by growing protests. “I think this is a problem of the world, not just of Japan,” Kato Keiko told Democracy Now! at a protest outside the prime minister’s private residence in Tokyo. She describes how there is increasing expectation that voters will decide which candidate to choose in the upcoming election based on their position on nuclear power.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting for the last of three days from Tokyo, Japan. We turn right now to what took place just before we made it to the studio. Hundreds of people gathered outside the official residence of the Japanese prime minister to voice their concern about nuclear power.
KEIKO KATO: [translated] My name is Keiko Kato. I belong to this organizers’ group which organized this demonstration. And we’ve been here for two years to demonstrate against the nuclear power facilities. I think this is a problem of the world, not for just Japan. So, for us, for Japanese to be able to abolish the nuclear facility, this would save the world from the nuclear powers.
The people have been decreasing because of the weather, but starting from last week, more people are coming to the demonstration just because there are some movements in the government to restart some of the nuclear facilities, so people are very afraid that they are going to actually do it. That’s why more people are coming out now in this weather.
There will be gubernatorial elections next month, and one of the issues that we are discussing is either the candidate is for nuclear power plant or against the nuclear power plant. And that will be a serious issue that has to be discussed. And we can send a message from Tokyo to the Japanese government for nuclear policies. We are trying very hard to stop this movement that is starting. We want you to bring our message to the world to stop nuclear power plant facilities.
Safecast is a network of volunteers who came together to map radiation levels throughout Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. They soon realized radiation readings varied widely, with some areas close to the disaster facing light contamination, depending on wind and geography, while others much further away showed higher readings. Safecast volunteers use Geiger counters and open-source software to measure the radiation, and then post the data online for anyone to access. Broadcasting from Tokyo, we are joined by Pieter Franken, co-founder of Safecast. “The first trip we made into Fukushima, it was an eye-opener. First of all, the radiation levels we encountered were way higher than what we had seen on television,” Franken says. “We decided to focus on measuring every single street as our goal in Safecast, so for the last three years we have been doing that, and this month we are passing the 15 millionth location we have measured, and basically every street in Japan has been at least measured once, if not many, many more times.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now by one of the founders of a network of volunteers who came together to map radiation levels throughout Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in 2011. They soon realized radiation readings varied widely, with some areas close to the disaster facing light contamination, depending on wind and geography, while others much further away showed higher ratings. Safecast volunteers use Geiger counters and open-source software to measure the radiation, then post the data online for anyone to access. Their effort comes as Japan recently passed a new secrecy bill.
Well, for more, we’re joined by Pieter Franken, who is co-founder of Safecast.
Welcome Democracy Now! Explain what it is you’ve done. You’re turning smartphones into Geiger counters?
PIETER FRANKEN: Not really that simple. Actually, what happened is, after the disaster happened, we were all looking for information, and we couldn’t find any. And actually we tried to create a website where we could collect data and share it with people, so everybody could know what’s happening. And very quickly, we found out there was almost no data. The Japanese government had published nothing, and we were basically in the dark.
After we did that, we said, We’re not going to give up.” We had a plan to buy lots of Geiger counters, give it to lots of people, and basically use kind of crowdsourcing to get the data and then share the data. Unfortunately, in the first 24 hours after the disaster, almost any Geiger counter on the planet was sold out, so we couldn’t get all the equipment to do it.
So then we sat down and said, “How are we going to solve this problem? How do we get the data out?” Then, the idea was very simple. We decided to put a Geiger counter on a car, connected to a GPS and a computer, and start driving around and map the data—very much how Google maps streets. The whole idea was to do the same thing, but then for radiation. And that’s how we started.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, take it from there.
PIETER FRANKEN: And we took it from there. And then, the first trip we made into Fukushima, it was an eye-opener. First of all, the radiation levels we encountered were way higher than what we had seen on television. On top of that, we also noticed, as you mentioned, that the radiation is not very predictable. It’s not the distance to Daiichi that tells you how much radiation there is. It’s very blotchy. Nearby, we measured very high and very low. Much further away, we still were measuring high levels of radiation.
So, as we were talking to people, as we were meeting people, people started to say, like, you know, “We want to have data about where we’re living.” And the Japanese government was basically publishing averages for cities. But people are not an average. So, people are not living in the city hall; they’re living in the streets. So we decided to focus on measuring every single street as our goal in Safecast. So, for the last three years, we have been doing that. And this month, we are passing the 15 millionth location we have measured. And basically every street in Japan has been at least measured once, if not many, many more times.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s the gadget you’ve brought in here?
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes, let me show you this. This is the system that we’re currently using. We have a few hundred of these in use by our volunteers. And this is basically a Geiger counter that is in a waterproof and shock-proof case. And what happens is—the sensor is on the other side. What happens is this—
AMY GOODMAN: It’s about the size of a little transistor radio.
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes. It’s more or less. Yeah, it’s a very small, compact device.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s four inches by what? Five inches by three inches? Or—
PIETER FRANKEN: Somewhere around that, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Yeah.
PIETER FRANKEN: And it is designed—the strap goes through the car window, and as you close the car window, the thing sits outside of the car. And basically, you have to just switch it on, and it automatically starts recording the level as you’re driving around. And we designed this with lots of volunteers over the last three years, and we’ve been through lots of iterations, and we now are able to give these to volunteers at a much lower cost. But more importantly, it is very easy to use. You don’t have to be a scientist to be able to collect this data.
AMY GOODMAN: How does the data go from the box to your company, Safecast?
PIETER FRANKEN: First of all, we’re not a company. We’re a volunteer organization. So, let me be clear about that.
How the data actually gets moved is very simple. It’s like a camera. It has an SD card. After you’re done, drive for a couple of hours, you take the SD card out, you go to our website, you upload the file, and then you can see a map of your radiation that you have measured. And then we merge that with our database, and then people can basically use an application that we—for example, on a smartphone, people can access—just a moment. They can then go to an application on an iPhone or an iPad. And I’ll try to kind of zoom in to where we are right now in Tokyo. And as we’re zooming in, I think you can see—
AMY GOODMAN: You’re making me very nervous.
PIETER FRANKEN: You can see every single street, and you can see all the measurements we have done around that.
AMY GOODMAN: And what are the measurements, for example? I mean, Tokyo is how many miles away from Fukushima?
PIETER FRANKEN: We’re about 200 kilometers away from Daiichi. As you can see on the map here, we’re here in Tokyo, and this is where Fukushima is. You can see there is a big difference in color.
AMY GOODMAN: Up north, the coast.
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s around, what, 150 miles up the coast.
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And how toxic or radioactive is it here?
PIETER FRANKEN: Compared to the rest of Japan, Tokyo got a certain amount of fallout. Relatively speaking, I think the levels, what they are today are maybe 50 percent higher than what they were before the disaster. But compared to locations in Fukushima, it’s actually relatively low. So, in terms of, you know, exposure to radioactivity, this is nothing compared to what is happening in Fukushima prefecture and the areas around there.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re taking this beyond the borders of Japan.
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes. Safecast started as a global organization. We got lots of help from outside of Japan. We would not have been able to do it without all the volunteers. And we got lots of people outside of Japan, had the same worry, and they started to worry about it, as well. And they’re using the same equipment now to measure their own environments. We have people measuring—lots of people measuring in the U.S. We have people measuring in Europe. We have some volunteers now in Africa. We have just covered all the seven continents in terms of having the first measurements in, and that is spreading very quickly right now.
AMY GOODMAN: And how has the map in Japan changed? We’re almost at the three-year mark, the third anniversary of Fukushima.
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes. If we look at radiation levels, specifically in Fukushima area, we see that the radiation levels have dropped by about 40 to 50 percent, depending on where and how you measure. And that is largely contributable to the half-life of some of the nucleates, and it is also contributable to the fact that the weather and the environment has specific ways of dealing with the material, and that has changed very slowly over time.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re also measuring air quality.
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes, we have started to—a project to measure air quality.
AMY GOODMAN: [inaudible] radiation.
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes, we got lots of interest in the radiation project, but lots of people came to us and said, “Please, can you do something about air quality?” And initially, we were too busy solving the problem of how do we measure radiation on a large scale. And we now have started to—a project to do that.
AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of the state secrets law, how does it affect you?
PIETER FRANKEN: We believe that it should not affect us. We are actually collecting facts and data about our environment, and we strongly feel that that data should be public and open, accessible.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re saying you believe it shouldn’t?
PIETER FRANKEN: It should, yes. That’s our belief.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned that it will?
PIETER FRANKEN: I’m personally not concerned about it, because I believe that that should not be an issue. However, how that will be reacted upon is something that we have to go and see. We don’t know at this point.
AMY GOODMAN: Shouldn’t the government be collecting this data and sharing it with the citizens of this country?
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes, absolutely. In the beginning of the disaster, the data that was made available by the government was almost nothing. I think through, you know, projects like Safecast, there has been lots of pressure to do more. The Japanese government has been publishing more, TEPCO has been publishing more, undoubtedly because there has been external pressure. However, the problem we have with some of the data collection is it is very selective. And the other problem is, lots of the data is available, but it is not open. So, it is copyright-protected. You can’t download it and do something with it. It is restricted.
AMY GOODMAN: The Japanese government says don’t trust the information you have, that it’s very important to rely only on government readings.
PIETER FRANKEN: We strongly believe that in order to have credibility, you need to check your data. And we, in Safecast, our goal is to independently measure, as citizens, if the data is correct or not.
AMY GOODMAN: And the response of the corporation, TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, that runs the, owns the nuclear power plants, to what you’re doing?
PIETER FRANKEN: We have never been contacted by TEPCO, so I can’t really give a good answer to that question.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. If people want to find out more information about this Safecast Geiger counter?
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes, yes. We have a website, Safecast.org. If you go to our website, you can find more information about what we’re doing, and also how you can build this device yourself and how you can participate in the Safecast project.
AMY GOODMAN: In the global mapping of radiation and air quality.
PIETER FRANKEN: Yes. Anybody anywhere can participate. It’s really easy.
AMY GOODMAN: Pieter Franken, thanks so much for being with us, co-founder of Safecast.