Last month marked the ten-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that led to a nuclear meltdown that killed more than 19,000 people in northern Japan and forced about 164,000 people to leave the area.
A recent New York Times article reported that the Japanese government has still not fully reopened villages and towns within the original 12-mile evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Understandably, not many have returned to the area, but there are some who went back to old homes despite the residual radiation risk.
Incredibly, the anniversary was marked the same month by a 7.2-magnitude quake, which could be felt hundreds of miles away in Tokyo and prompted a tsunami warning. The threat of another radiation disaster must have sent chills to the residents. Thankfully, it was reported that few were injured and no damage to nuclear facilities had been found after this latest episode.
It would probably be wise for scientists involved in examining the area, or anyone who has returned to the area, to use the latest Geiger Counter type of technology to check for radioactivity as well as monitor themselves with dosimetry devices.
Dosimetry, sometimes known as radiation detection and measurement, is a safety precaution that helps detect, localize, identify, and measure radioactivity in any scenario. Dosimetry refers to the calculation of the absorbed dose in tissue resulting from exposure to ionizing radiation, and personal radiation dosimeters and monitoring devices quickly and effectively communicate critical dose information in any environment.
Daily monitoring for radiation exposure is standard regulatory procedure in medical and imaging facilities, dental offices, veterinary clinics, nuclear power plants, laboratories and other facilities that work with sources of radiation. (Read Radiation Detection and Measurement is Needed in Many Places.) But it may prove useful for those going back to a contaminated area for any reason to safeguard against the dangers of radiation exposure.
According to OSHA, the degree of exposure depends on a number of factors, such as the amount of radiation, the duration of exposure, the distance from the source and the type of shielding in place. The danger of radiation exposure involves potential health effects that can be acute or chronic, including cancer and genetic effects.
On a wider scale, there are portable radiation detectors to detect, locate, and identify radioactive nuclides and nuclear radiation detection and monitoring for power plant facilities, and even instruments specifically used for radiation contamination and environmental monitoring to help to prevent the spread of radioactive contamination within the environment.
These technologies could not have prevented the tragedies that happened ten years ago, but they may be able to help prevent further harm from happening to those thinking of returning to the area. Knowing if the air or surfaces in the area still indicates radiation is present may help folks decide their future.
- Frequently Asked Questions about Radiation Detection
- What’s the Difference Between a Geiger Counter and a Personal Radiation Detector?