“Shortly after a massive tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on 11 March, an unmanned monitoring station on the outskirts of Takasaki, Japan, logged a rise in radiation levels. Within 72 hours, scientists had analysed samples taken from the air and transmitted their analysis to Vienna, Austria — the headquarters of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), an international body set up to monitor nuclear weapons tests.
It was just the start of a flood of data collected about the accident by the CTBTO’s global network of 63 radiation monitoring stations. In the following weeks, the data were shared with governments around the world, but not with academics or the public. Now scientists working with the CTBTO on behalf of member states are calling for the data to be released, both to give other researchers an opportunity to use them, and to improve the network’s performance.
“What I’m after is to make this dataset available to the scientific community,” says Wolfgang Weiss, head of the department of radiation protection and health at Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection in Munich. In the coming weeks and months he hopes to persuade member nations overseeing the CTBTO to approve new rules for sharing data with other international bodies and scientific researchers.”