PURCHASE, N.Y. – Japanese disaster and research experts, as well as eyewitnesses to last year's Fukushima disaster, were at Manhattanville College Monday to speak about their experiences in Japan.
With the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster approaching, nuclear safety is on the minds of many Westchester residents thanks to the proximity of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants in Buchanan.
Through a translator, Kazuhiko Amano, a researcher at the Fukushima University Institute for Disaster Relief, reminded the audience that Westchester County is not in an earthquake or tsunami zone. But Amano said Indian Point is still run by machines and the people working them.
“Name one person who doesn’t make mistakes or one machine that doesn’t break,” Amano said.
Yuki Tanaka, a research professor of history at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, said that in cases of disaster, people tend to act illogically. Tanaka also talked about how many people in Japan were displaced from their homes and had to seek their own living accommodations.
“Many people moved around a lot,” Tanaka said. “It created serious problems in particular for young couples with small children.”
Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, said evacuation in disaster circumstances is the “Achilles heel” of disaster readiness.
Redlener said he hopes what happened in Japan serves as an example to the rest of the world if something similar were to occur again. Redlener said if Westchester County were to be evacuated, at least eight different states would be affected either through radiation or people fleeing the area.
“Every large scale evacuation is a public health crisis at minimum,” Redlener said. “When you leave a hot zone there is no way to know how long you would be gone from your home and possessions. It would be the end of normalcy for hundreds of thousands of people.”
Former Westchester County Executive Andy Spano was on hand during the event Monday to explain what his administration did during his time running the county.
“If Indian Point stays open, something might happen, but we’d have a big problem if it closes because of decommissioning the plant,” Spano said. “If it were to close, we’d still have to deal with it for the next 15 years.”
Spano did not take a side on whether or not Indian Point should be closed.