Fukushima subcontract cleanup worker, Noriyuki Kitajima on left, and Akito University Professor Akiva Murakami on right, visited Riverkeeper Friday to discuss the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown last year.
Photo credit: Jessica Glenza

OSSINING, N.Y. -- Riverkeeper marked the one year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants’ meltdown by inviting visitors from Fukushima, Japan to discuss perceived threats to New Yorkers from the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants in Buchanan, N.Y. 

“Compared to Fukushima, Indian Point’s rather close to New York City, in the 20 kilometer radius nobody’s living,” said Noriyuki Kitajima, a worker at Fukushima Daiichi and Daini Nuclear Power Plants. Kitajima spoke through a translator, Professor Akiva Murakami of Akito University. 

Ordinarily a Tokyo union organizer, Kitajima lived in Fukushima since after the accident took place March 11, 2011. He spent his first six months in Fukushima as a support worker for evacuated families, and is currently a subcontract worker for the power plants. Kitajima called himself a human rights activist, and said he sought out a position at the disaster site because he wanted to “see what was really going on at the plant.” 

Currently, Kitajima helps cleanup workers undress from contaminated hazmat suits and doses their radiation exposure after returning from contaminated rubble left by a containment dome explosion.

“People are afraid that they have risks in the future,” said Kitajima about radiation exposure, which many believe increase their chances of cancer. Murakami spoke for Kitajima, saying, “He expects no immediate health effects, but he’s almost sure he’ll have some disease like cancer in the future.” 

The meeting with the two Japanese men is in conjunction with a "No More Fukushimas Peace Walkers" vigil held by Croton Close Indian Point, on Sunday at 1 p.m. Participants will walk eight miles from Croton ShopRite to the gates of Indian Point. Their visit also abuts a new Riverkeeper campaign to prevent Indian Point’s relicensing, called "Don't Let It Happen Here."

Riverkeeper’s campaign cornerstone is a number of contentions to be heard before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The three-judge panel will review issues normally outside the narrow scope of relicensing regulations.

“The staff has said that it has the programs and policies in place to allow it to operate for another 20 years. The staff also did an environmental evaluation process which said there’s no reason not to issue the license,” said Diane Screnci, spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation feels otherwise, and in 2010 denied a Water Quality Certificate needed to legally operate the plant’s 2.5 billion gallon a day cooling system, saying the plants need close cycle cooling systems. Hearings on the WQC are ongoing, their outcome is uncertain.

“If you really look at Fukushima and compare it to Indian Point, I think most people do become reassured, because of the fact that we are in a different location, and there were different standards in how we’re designed,” said Jerry Nappi, spokesperson for Indian Point.