International entities take steps to encourage data release

Several recent developments related to data sharing have elevated the topic on the international stage.  Wednesday June 23 at an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting the members agreed to share more information in the event of a nuclear crisis, and will set up mechanisms to do so.  Furthermore, “A Japanese official quoted an expert from the World Meteorological Organization as saying the group was unable to obtain necessary information from Japan. He said this led to difficulties in projecting how radioactive materials would spread around the world.”

A meeting June 8-10 of scientists working with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO, an international entity established to monitor nuclear weapons test) resulted in an initiative to encourage more widespread dissemination of data from their radiation monitoring sites.  As the Fukushima crisis unfolded, disclosure of the CTBTO data was restricted to participating member-state designated scientific institutions.  This restricted release of data was criticized by the wider scientific community.  A June 15 editorial in Nature urged open access to the data: “…the CTBTO data are valuable in times of both calm and crisis. Contrary to the concerns of some, the more people who see them, the more valuable they will become.”

Citizens and scientists in Japan continue to monitor radiation and map areas of contamination up to ~100 miles from the Fukushima site – reaching the edges of Tokyo.  The comprehensive dataset is attracting the attention of the international scientific community, as described in the June 17 issue of Science magazine.   The compiled “citizens’ map” is shown above and here, along with details about each station measurement.  Radiation values in the zone to the northeast of Tokyo are 0.4 microsievert/hr (~3.5 millisievert/yr) – exceeding the Japanese limit of 1 millisievert/yr. Evidence of more widespread (150-200 km north of the nuclear plant) radiation contamination of cattle grazing lands is emerging.  This region is shown on the map above.

Depth contours and cruise track from WHOI research cruise blog (Image: Steve Jayne, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution conducted a research cruise June 3-17 (see above cruise track) to sample the waters in the vicinity of the Fukushima plant and through the Kuroshio current.  The cruise maintained a blog and is committed to the public dissemination of results:  “The larger questions—those that we are working towards with this cruise—include the full range of isotopes that were released from the reactor that and may yet be released, how fast and by what paths cesium and other isotopes are being diluted into and removed from the North Pacific, and how these different substances might be assimilated into different levels of the food chain.”

Other relevant sources of consolidated data include current and forecast wind and rain from the Japan Meteorological Agency 2 km resolution GPV model.

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