Usually, there are not many things on my plate on August 6th, other than spending a really hot summer’s day remembering the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Wherever I am, it's natural to send condolences to the victims and pray for peace and a world without nuclear weapons.
But on the morning of this August 6th, I rushed to a kindergarten in Fukushima City, where continuing, and much needed sampling work by a team of Greenpeace radiation specialists would be carried out.
We had visited the same kindergarten in June and at that time, heavy machinery was removing topsoil to reduce the radiation level in the playground. Since then, both the school and the parents have been monitoring radiation levels not only in the playground, but also indoors and the surrounds of the school, such as outside the school gates - everywhere children normally go and play.
The school and parents had found a few radiation hotspots so we were asked to conduct more precise monitoring and detailed analysis of the soil.
After we prepared a precise map of the whole area, we comprehensively sampled the hotspots and other places on the site, in order to give a true representation of the whole school premises.
We measured dose rates at 10cm, 50cm and 1m above the ground at more than 100 points across the play area, and around the kindergarten building. This was mapped on a grid system for us to identify where would be the best places to take samples.
Next, we identified suitable locations for sampling and took 500g of 2cm topsoil, as well as samples at the same location at two different depths – the surface and at 5cm deep. We ended up collecting seven samples from various locations that we plan to analyse. We hope to get the results as soon as possible, and if the results show high levels of contamination, we will once again demand that Japan’s government take effective measures to protect children, including providing the financial resources and logistics to allow the children living in the most contaminated areas to be evacuated.
While we carried out the sampling, I noticed that in many places around the school, there were desperate efforts to reduce radiation exposure. For example, in one spot, there were hundreds of 2L water bottles piled up to block in the hotspots. This method may not block the gamma rays, but it clearly draws attention to the area to stop children walking into the area, or even going to collect their ball if it is thrown onto that soil. Most of the kids' toys have been washed many times with all sorts of non-toxic detergent as an experiment to find out the best way to lower radiation levels.
Throughout the day, many concerned parents observed our work and provided us with cold water and wet towels (which was wonderful in such sweltering heat!). Whenever we took a short break, Jan, Nikki and our other experts were surrounded by parents, and asked many questions.
It was such a hot day that for a second, I was reminded of the more usual Hiroshima Day. But I couldn't talk about that in front of the parents who were desperate to protect their own children in Fukushima in 2011.