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Japan and Ukraine collaborate on satellites to monitor effects of nuclear disasters

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fukushima daiichi power plant (takuo kawamoto flickr)
fukushima daiichi power plant (takuo kawamoto flickr)

Japan and Ukraine are reaching an agreement to conduct a long-term study of the environmental effects of the Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear incidents, launching eight miniature satellites into orbit to photograph the affected regions. During a trip to Ukraine, Japan’s foreign minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that "we have agreed on cooperation in the space sector to monitor the regions surrounding Chernobyl and Fukushima," reports the AFP.

Actual work on the project is expected to start early next year

The satellites will measure about 20 inches in diameter and weigh roughly 130 pounds apiece. According to the Nikkei business daily, the two parties both support launching the satellites with Ukrainian rockets while engineers at Tokyo University take the lead in producing the necessary plans. As it stands, the idea is to photograph the areas surrounding the destroyed nuclear plants in Fukushima and Chernobyl, while sensors on the ground forward other relevant information to flesh out a multi-year picture of environmental changes. Actual work on the project is expected to start early next year.

Both the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters were categorized as level-seven nuclear events according to the United Nations, and although Japan has just raised the severity of the Fukushima leak, the two incidents have very different prospects in terms of long-term health and environmental impact. But with such a shortage of data (two data points in 30 years), it’s difficult to predict the repercussions with certainty. Hopefully this new project can give researchers a more holistic view of the situation on the ground.