HOUSTON – A Houston native who now lives in Tokyo says the unknown makes for some stressful days and sometimes panicked nights.
“I’m definitely on edge,” said Houston native Jeffrey Rosen, an art gallery owner who lives in an apartment in Tokyo.
Rosen and his wife live about 150 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
“It’s quite scary to be honest with you. I’m trying to stay inside as much as possible and hoping for the best,” said Rosen. “Every day, we sort of wake up to things that are progressively worse."
As Japan suspended operations on a stricken nuclear plant, an expert on nuclear power and radiation said, so far, people in and around Tokyo are not exposed to a very significant level of radiation.
“In Tokyo, I think the levels of radiation are insignificant. It’s at a level you can measure, but not significant,” said Rice University Professor Dr. Paul Padley.
But things could change, he said.
“If the situation at the reactor got much worse, and the wind was blowing the wrong way, you want to clear whatever area is exposed,” said Padley. “At the moment, my biggest fear is what’s going on in the ponds that are holding the fuel rods. We don’t have a clear picture of what’s happened there, but it’s quite possible to release a lot of radioactivity in the atmosphere.”
Right outside the nuclear plant, Padley says the radiation levels are equivalent to being exposed to five to ten chest X-rays per hour. The Japanese government has evacuated those who live near the plant amid concerns of radiation exposure.
He said in Tokyo, radiation exposure is minimal, and should things change, there will be time to evacuate the areas of concern.
“None of this would happen very quickly. They are far enough away that you would have a warning time,” said Padley.
Rosen said, in addition to radiation fears, rolling black outs are common and aftershocks are expected.
“It was shaking pretty strongly in our apartment last night,” he said.
He said life in Tokyo isn’t what it used to be. Certain foods, water, even toilet paper, aren’t easy to come by.
“Yesterday, we couldn’t buy rice, for example, and rice is a staple of a Japanese home,” he said. “On the hunt to find toilet paper yesterday, I tried to find bottle water, but I couldn’t find it at the grocery store.”
Rosen says he ended up buying water from a vending machine.
Despite the situation, the Houston native says he remains optimistic about what will happen in the place he now calls home. He has no plans to leave.
“This is my home right now,” said Rosen. “So I would feel uncomfortable leaving friends and family that I have here.”