Citizen science after the Fukushima nuclear accident: an encounter with bottom-up crisis management and post-disaster recovery
(SCK•CEN Belgian Nuclear Research Centre)
Ine Van Hoyweghen (KU Leuven)
Paper short abstract:
This paper takes up citizen engagement in the field of radiation monitoring after the Fukushima nuclear accident. It explores how grassroots organizations responded to concerns of citizens and unveils the contributions bottom-up initiatives made to crisis management and post-disaster recovery.
Paper long abstract:
When an earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan in 2011, its disruptive power left a scar in the landscape and minds of the Japanese people. On top of this, the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant displaced communities and exposed the fragile foundations of the nuclear safety myth in Japan. For the affected communities nuclear energy was no longer the energy of a bright future, but the source of risk and contestation. Faced with a new reality, radiation measurement laboratories that enable citizens to independently measure ionizing radiation boomed throughout Japan, creating alternative paths for disaster management and post-disaster reconstruction. Although bottom-up citizen science in the field of radiation monitoring is not a new phenomenon, the organizations established in the wake of the Fukushima accident are exceeding the boundaries of preceding organizations in numbers, in space and in data production. Over the past seven years they continue to assert themselves as beacons of transparency, education and participation. Moreover, some organizations like Safecast are increasingly seeking recognition from the authorities. Drawing on research literature on citizen science and fieldwork in Japan, this paper takes these bottom-up citizen radiation measurement laboratories as an opportunity to reflect upon the diversity of bottom-up participation and to explore how they are providing responses to citizens' concerns and expectations. In this way, it examines the contributions grassroots organizations (can) make within a post-disaster environment.
Keywords: grassroots radiation measurement, Fukushima nuclear accident, radiation monitoring, crisis management and post-disaster recovery
Disasters and participation: inventive/disruptive encounters