Beamtime needed for Japanese crystallographers due to earthquake damage at the Photon Factory in Tsukuba



Dear colleagues, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all international colleagues for sending us the warm words and support after the devastating earthquakes which hit the north eastern Japan on Friday March 11th, and the subsequent crisis in the nuclear power plants in Fukushima.  This is a national disaster.


The Photon Factory is 60 km north of Tokyo, 200 km from the Fukushima nuclear reactors.  There have been no injuries both in the KEK Tsukuba Campus (where the PF is located) and the J-PARC (a new spallation neutron source in Tokai, on the coast) but many damages have been observed.  In Tsukuba, we still have very limited emergency power (up to 2 MW), no water, no gas.  This makes it very difficult to assess the extent of real damages. On very limited visual inspection, our five protein crystallography beamlines have been spared of major damages, but we need to wait until we turn on the components and bring in the beam. The linear accelerator has seen some substantial damages: three RF components moved by about 10 cm along the beam direction breaking the vacuum, one Q magnet fell onto the floor, some ground water spills.  PF and PF-AR rings have seen less damage: some fallen control racks, but again we need to turn the system on before knowing the real damages. Several components of VUV-SX beamlines have been displaced.  All these need to be carefully checked and reinstalled before we can get back to normal operation, which could be, at least, two to three months.


As many of you have seen on the TV, internet, and other news media, the four nuclear reactors in Fukushima, 200 km away from KEK Tsukuba are all in deep trouble.  We are really scared by the potential meltdown of any of these reactors.  The information released from the Government and the Company is rather limited.  I guess they are trying not to scare people but this makes us worry even more.  The situation of the nuclear plant has worsened every hour for the last several days, but I do hope that they will contain the damage.  At KEK, we are now measuring the radiation level continuously, and so far the highest we have seen in Tsukuba is a sharp rise to 1.1 microSv/h (not really a major health hazard at this level) at 9AM this morning but then it went down to normal.  People's life around Tsukuba is also affected; gas (gasoline) is very scarce and every gas station either has a long queue or closed after selling their stock out.  In supermarkets, drinking water, bread, rice, meat, etc. are very hard to find.  I have told my children that we are very lucky in that all five of us are together in the house without any major damages, and our extended families are also well, compared to the terrible situation in northern Japan closer to the epicenters where people lost their lives, houses or loved ones.


We will work together to survive this crisis and try to restore our lives and the science in the coming months, and would very much appreciate your continuous support in these difficult times. For example, I would expect shortage of beamtime during the recovery of the PF and our colleagues at SPring-8 will help us, but would like to ask for your support in helping the Japanese protein crystallographers with some beamtime.  Thank you very much for reading this message.


Soichi Wakatsuki, Ph.D. [email protected]



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