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posted: 7/9/2012 1:01 PM

American praised for radiation data

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  • Workers spray the walls of a radiation-contaminated warehouse in Fukushima, northeastern Japan.

      Workers spray the walls of a radiation-contaminated warehouse in Fukushima, northeastern Japan.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

Japanese seeking information on radiation levels in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster are turning to a volunteer group founded in the U.S. that has created a detailed and constantly updated visual database online. Sean Bonner, one of the founders of the group called Safecast, said nothing could have been more natural than to jump in and fill the need.

Many Japanese were terrified about the health effects of radiation in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, and had no idea whether their homes, schools and offices were safe. They were also frustrated by the lack of government or other official data on radiation. Geiger counters were selling out.

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Within weeks, Bonner and his team created a handmade Geiger counter connected with a GPS feature that he calls "bGeigie," a reference to Japanese-style "bento" lunchboxes. It is attached to cars and takes a reading every five seconds, resulting in a massive store of data. There are 30 to 35 such mobile devices traversing Japan and 320 fixed devices. Safecast made the technology and the data open, sharing the design and findings, and has now collected more than 3 million measurements across Japan. Other volunteers have developed online maps with the data.

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