Fukushima Commemoration at Indian Point

March 20, 2012 § Leave a comment


Westchester Guardian    March 29, 2012

Buchanan, NY  – – Last week hundreds of people gathered in front of the gates of the Indian Point nuclear power plant to commemorate  the one year anniversary of the nuclear catastrophe at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plants, one of the worst nuclear accidents since Chernobyl in 1986. Events marking the Fukushima disaster took place across the globe to honor those whose lives were lost and to reaffirm the dangers of nuclear power.

The ceremony at Indian Point opened with a moment of silence at exactly 3:36 pm, the time when the Japanese plants and thousands of residents living near the plant succumbed to a level 9.0 earthquake, followed by a towering tsunami that tore through the Fukushima reactors, eventually causing meltdowns and widespread radioactive contamination.

In a disturbing testimonial by Noriyuki Kitajima, a Japanese Laborer and Union Organizer who helped workers clean up the contaminated Fukushima plants, people had the rare opportunity to hear first hand exactly what it was like trying to survive. Kitajima, speaking through translator Professor Akiva Murakami of Akito University, told a stunned crowd that when he started working at Fukushima Dai-ichi last September, he measured radioactivity from workers returning from highly contaminated areas and he helped them take off their contaminated clothing at the end of their shift.  

Noriyuki Kitajima from Fukushima at the Fukushima Commenmoration at Indian Point

“The highest level I found were 2 mSV after working two hours.  This is very high.  The maximum for the year is 20 mSV. The government has raised the maximum to 100 because of the emergency. Once workers have reached this level of exposure, they can no longer work at the plant for the next four years.  What happens to these people?  They are disposable.  They are cast out without any benefits ― without any thought to their welfare.  No medical care, no job, no future.  The government overlooks them.  I am not.  I am working for benefits for them after they leave the plant.  It is only fair. I want to change this inhuman condition for my colleagues.”

Mark Jacobs, one of the founding members of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC), the key group who organized the event,  addressed the crowd. “Today we join with people in New York City and people around the world who mourn thousands of lives lost in a radiological catastrophe that goes on to this day.”

Veteran anti nuke protester Connie Hogarth of the  Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action recalled how she started the anti Indian Point movement in 1972. “Back then we had a shopping list of problems with Indian Point. Then Three Mile Island happened.” Hogarth told of demonstrations called “Die-Ins” held at the former gates of Indian Point to represent those killed at TMI. “That [anti Indian Point] energy has sustained for 40 years,” she said.

Connie Hogarth at the  Fukushima Commenmoration at Indian Point

Jacobs thanked his colleagues Marilyn Elie and Gary Shaw also of the IPSEC who were key in organizing “Fukushima Week,” a week long series of events leading up to the commemoration.  IPSEC and other anti nuclear organizations brought together Japanese experts and Fukushima residents with First Responders at Manhattanville College and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Shaw said “Indian Point is not necessary, even when its running in the so-called ‘safe mode.’ The three counties surrounding Indian Point have some of the highest rates of thyroid cancer.”

Elie urged residents to speak out locally against Indian Point. “Closing down Indian point means speaking out locally and getting a resolution in your town and to let governor Cuomo know about the wide based sentiment to close Indian Point.”

Radio host Gary Null warned of main stream media outlets who were perpetrating wrong information about nuclear power.

“Official media represents the ideology of the networks – if the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) says nuclear power is safe, then the media says it’s safe. It’s a well known fact that the 50,000 infant deaths caused by Three Mile Island was covered up. The truth will never come out.”

Other speakers included Manna Jo Greene of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and  Phillip Musegaas of Riverkeeper. “Fukushima Week” was able to bring from Japan experts and people from Fukushima and connect them with first responders at a special conference. The week also saw the Japanese guests holding several press conferences, one with the Physicians for Social Responsibility. Testimonies throughout the week were as alarming as Kitajima’s; the public was told of a spike in suicides among residents living in the Fukushima area, for a week after the earthquake and tsunami, Tokyo didn’t sell food or water for a week. Many animals were abandoned animals and many ancient landmarks were wiped out. Thousands are still not allowed to go back to their homes and the refugee center set up cardboard walls to separate some 2500 people living there.

Fukushima Week also included a Silent vigil  – one that has been ongoing for the past year in Yorktown on Route 202 across from BJ’s. Before last week’s commemoration, a group of Peace Walkers started out at  Zucotti Park near Wall Street and walked to George Washington bridge and before the March 11 commemoration “No More Fukushima’s Peace Walkers” were led by Buddhist nun  Jun-san Yasuda from Croton. Jun-san is from the Grafton Peace Pavilion and is well known for her walks for peace around the world. A post commemoration event was a Pot Luck that featured music, poetry and speakers including singer songwriter Dar Williams, Dan Einbender and the Rivertown Kids,   James Durst, Hope Machine, Lydia Adams DavisSarah Underhill, Roland Moussa, Taeko Fukao, Raging Grannies.

To date, all but two of Japan’s 54 commercial reactors have gone offline since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The two remaining reactors are expected to be taken off line in the next few months. Kitajima said the country may use more gas or fossil fuel.

“In the long run we will use renewables and have a clean and green grid and sustain our living standards,” he said. “If we can do it in Japan you can do it here.  Say good bye to nuclear power and Close Indian Point!”


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