5 Years After Fukushima Accident, 16 Navy Ships Still Contaminated

It has been almost five years since Japan’s nuclear disaster occurred at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. During the recovery period, the US sent a total of 25 ships to the area to assist in what was dubbed Operation Tomodachi. Of those 25 ships, 16 are reported to still be contaminated with low levels of radiation, according to Navy officials.

The disaster took place on 11 March 2011 when the area was first hit by a massive 9.0 earthquake, followed by a tsunami with waves up to 130 feet high. The waves hitting the plant caused it go offline, causing a nuclear meltdown.

Of the 25 US ships that took part in the relief operation, 13 US Navy and 3 Military Sea Lift Command ships continue to show low levels of radiation contamination. Generally, the areas that are still contaminated are engines, ventilation systems, and generators.

Other areas of the ships have been cleaned and cleared of radiation issues and are within safe limits for human activities. When maintenance work is required in the contaminated areas, strict guidelines are imposed and followed, according to senior Navy sources. In addition, it has been reported that the levels of radiation still present are low enough not to be a health concern to those who live or work around those areas.

Of the ships taking part in the operation, the largest was the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered super-carrier, USS Ronald Reagan. It has a crew of around 5000, and it arrived at the site within days of the event when high levels of radiation were being emitted from the plant into the air and into the sea.

USS RR NumberNavy officials have acknowledged that the USS Ronald Reagan did pass through an airborne plume of radiation. The ship remained in the area for several weeks to render aid. From there, the ship was sent to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, WA for maintenance and decontamination, according to Navy officials. It remained there for over a year.

The Navy reports that: “Procedures were in place to survey, control and remove any low-level residual contamination. Personnel working on potentially contaminated systems were monitored with sensitive dosimeters, and no abnormal radiation exposures were identified.”

Even so, in 2012, 8 sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan filed suit against the Tokyo Electric Power Co (operator of the plant), asserting they are now experiencing medical problems associated with radiation exposure. Later, General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi were included as defendants. Since its filing, the lawsuit has increased to 370 sailors asserting medical problems due to their exposure at the site.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, was ordered by Congress back in 2014 to look into the matter. His report defended the Navy’s protocols and said any medical problems reported by sailors on the Reagan were not associated with radiation exposure.

In his report, he wrote: “There is no objective evidence that the sailors experienced radiation exposures that would result in an increase in the expected number of radiogenic diseases over time. The estimated radiation doses for all individuals in the Operation Tomodachi registry, including sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan, were very small and well below levels associated with adverse medical conditions.”

The above mentioned lawsuit is making its way through the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Robert Partain

Robert Partain has been a professional writer for over 25 years. He spent ten years on active duty in the Army working as a medic and training NCO. While he covers any topic associated with military life, he specializes in writing about legislation that can affect active duty service members and veterans. Robert currently lives in the small town of Arab, Alabama.
Robert Partain
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