August 9, 2011

Radiation fears in Japan

Some in Japan doubt their government's official monitoring of radiation contamination.

In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, fears of nuclear contamination continue to spread. Amid health scares and constant reminders of the presence of radiation, some in Japan distrust their government's radiation measurements and have begun to take their own measurements and post them online.
On August 1, nearly five months since the initial disaster, Geiger counters at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant reactor reported a new record level of radiation according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). It was a frightening reminder that while headlines around the world may have shifted away from Japan, the crisis continues.
But in Japan, it wasn't so much a reminder as just another in a series of frightening reports. In July it was discovered that radioactive beef from Fukushima had been distributed nationwide. This scare occurred after assurances from government officials that radiation levels were being closely monitored. Stores in Japan have taken to posting signs asserting the lack of radioactivity in their merchandise.
Trust of the government's efforts to accurately monitor radiation has begun to erode. Online, amid the chatter on Twitter hashtags like #Fukushima, #jp_Geiger, and #nuclearjp, users have been posting results from their own radiation readings – offering an alternative to the official numbers. One popular hashtag, #genpatsu (Japanese slang for "nuclear power plant") features several images of readings from Geiger counters and dosimeters (used for measuring the irradiation of food and individuals).
Meanwhile fears about radiation also continue to fuel a debate about Japan's reliance on nuclear power. Anti-nuclear protests recorded on YouTube and Twitter show demonstrators holding signs with slogans like "We don't need nuclear power plants." Protesters on August 6 used the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the first nuclear weapon on Hiroshima as a stage to hold large anti-nuclear power protests.
Ed. note: A translation was corrected August 10. These are some of the social media elements featured in this segment of The Stream.