Toxic gas sensor eyed for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

The Japanese government plans to introduce next fiscal year a sensor capable of detecting toxic gases and materials as far five kilometers from the site of release, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, according to sources.

The move will mark the first deployment of such a sensor in Japan and is aimed at implementing thorough measures against chemical attacks by terrorists.

The sensor slated for introduction uses an infrared camera to analyse the degree of light absorption in gases, which differs depending on the type of gas. It can identify about 50 types, including sarin and chlorine gas, and transmits data on diffusion patterns to a personal computer.

This technology will enable the government to swiftly identify toxic gases from a safe location, and allow it to establish a preliminary response framework.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency, which is under the jurisdiction of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, plans to introduce and lend the sensor to ordinance-designated cities in prefectures bordering Tokyo by the end of next fiscal year. Individual fire departments will pay for the sensors' maintenance and operation.

The government plans to later expand the programme to Tokyo and 20 ordinance-designated cities nationwide.

Since the 1995 sarin gas attack in Tokyo's subway system, every prefecture has deployed at least one sensor for chemical agents. However, such sensors must be carried by firefighters to the site of a gas incident, potentially exposing them to toxic fumes and causing secondary disasters.

The agency also plans to dispatch a heavy-duty decontamination vehicle that can decontaminate up to 200 people per hour to government-designated cities in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

As the vehicle has already been deployed to Tokyo and all ordinance-designated cities, new vehicles will be sent to areas around airports and other important locations.