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Japanese Artist Uses Radiation's Effects to Show Contamination Spread

Japanese artist uses radioactive decay from contaminated plants, animals and daily goods collected from towns in nuclear no-go zones to demonstrate effects of contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. 2014-04-28 08:37 AM EST Last Updated: 2014-04-28 08:39 AM EST
In the aftermath of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, one Japanese artist decided to show the invisible aftermath in a more potent way and paired up with a university professor to help print out the contamination that is normally unseen to the naked eye.

Masamichi Kagaya began gathering items shortly after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and subsequent release of nuclear material across large swathes of Fukushima prefecture in March 2011. He made regular excursions to the exclusion zone to collect contaminated samples.

Working with University of Tokyo Professor Satoshi Mori, he was able to use the technology available at research facilities of the University of Tokyo to provide a more visual way of explaining exposure and radiation levels that normally are only given out in turns of exposure numbers.

Mori, a nuclear research specialist, said that while a grid of numbers is a useful measurement tool for record keeping, a visual library of images has a potentially longer shelf life.

He explained that he hoped that seeing radiation would help the general public to understand how much is 'stuck' to plants, animals and household goods which we encounter in our everyday lives.

"No matter how low the levels of radiation, our cells are being damaged when they absorb it. The weaker levels will be stopped at the skin but stronger levels will enter and stay for a long time within the body. I want more people to be aware that we are living in that kind of environment," Mori told Reuters.

The "Image of Radiation from Fukushima" exhibition was held for six days from April 23-28, aiming to create awareness of the invisible and odourless fall-out which continues to linger.

For Kagaya, while many may call his work 'art', the works are simply a way to show scientific fact in easy to understand visual form.

"There is no place to hide in a picture, nothing is invisible which shows the true reality of the situation," Seina Hareyama, a visitor to the exhibit said.

The autoradiographs, or visual representations of the radiation levels, which Kagaya creates in collaboration with his mentor Mori, create a visual impact displaying shadowy images with a gradation of white to gray to black which correspond directly to the levels of radiation.

Travelling to the exclusion area and to areas as close as 10 kilometres from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant to obtain contaminated samples, Kagaya has exposed himself to levels of up to 56 to 60 microsieverts or ten times the recommended dosage.

"Well, certainly by numbers we can understand (the levels of radiation). However without putting it into pictures it is difficult to understand how and where it is clinging to. That is why we have to put this into a visual image," Kagaya said.

In the long-term Kagaya hopes his works will be used for school textbooks and become a part of the historical legacy of the nuclear disaster and fall-out.

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