I noted last week that the news from the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan keeps getting worse and worse. Nearly three years after the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident, every week brings new reports of leaks or potential meltdowns at the troubled site. What’s more, experts are also tracking the plume of radiation from the Fukushima site as they slowly make their way toward the West Coast of the United States and Canada.
And now there’s growing evidence a large number of Americans already face serious health threats because of radiation exposure. I’m talking about the U.S. Navy crew that was dispatched to Japan for disaster relief and found itself in the heart of a nuclear danger zone. I mentioned about 14 months ago there were disturbing reports about illnesses and growing among the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan.
As a lawyer with more than two decades of experience in radiation cases, I’ve seen many times the fear and the frustration that come from these episodes — the shock and then the worry that comes first with exposure and then illness or nagging medical conditions. The people who’ve come in contact with radiation need expertise and good counsel — because the governments and their allies in Big Energy will not stand by them.
Now there’s disturbing new evidence that not only were these sailors exposed to dangerous levels of radiation but that the U.S. Navy was fully aware of the risk at the time it was occurring:
If true, the revelations cast new light on the $1 billion lawsuit filed by the sailors against Tokyo Electric Power. Many of the sailors are already suffering devastating health impacts, but are being stonewalled by Tepco and the Navy.
The Reagan had joined several other U.S. ships in Operation Tomodachi (“Friendship”) to aid victims of the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami. Photographic evidence and first-person testimony confirms that on March 12, 2011 the ship was within two miles of Fukushima Dai’ichi as the reactors there began to melt and explode.
In the midst of a snow storm, deck hands were enveloped in a warm cloud that came with a metallic taste. Sailors testify that the Reagan’s 5,500-member crew was told over the ship’s intercom to avoid drinking or bathing in desalinized water drawn from a radioactive sea. The huge carrier quickly ceased its humanitarian efforts and sailed 100 miles out to sea, where newly published internal Navy communications confirm it was still taking serious doses of radioactive fallout.
Scores of sailors from the Reagan and other ships stationed nearby now report a wide range of ailments reminiscent of those documented downwind from atomic bomb tests in the Pacific and Nevada, and at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. A similar metallic taste was described by pilots who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and by central Pennsylvanians downwind of Three Mile Island. Some parts of the atolls downwind from the South Pacific bomb tests remain uninhabitable six decades later.
Among the 81 plaintiffs in the federal class action are a sailor who was pregnant during the mission, and her “Baby A.G.,” born that October with multiple genetic mutations.
It’s noted that officially the governments of the United States and Japan, as well as Tepco, maintain that there were no unsafe levels of exposure. But researchers have already found considerable evidence to the contrary, including transcribed conversations released through the Freedom of Information Act showing that even 100 miles from the site of the accident, radiation was 30 times higher than normal expected background levels. U.S. helicopters involved in the relief effort were also reported to test positive for high levels of radiation. The latest reports also say that even after crews worked furiously to scrub down the deck of the tainted aircraft carrier, officials in Japan, South Korea and Guam refused to let the Reagan dock in their ports because of its radiation levels.
This situation is tragic, and it’s stunning that their lawsuits and the related information that has been revealed so far has not received more play in the American media. What’s more, these findings suggest what many of us have been saying since Day One, which is that the initial accident at Fukushima was far worse than either the Japanese government or Tepco was willing to admit. Authorities in Japan must come clean about what really happened in 2011 so we can make sure the ongoing problems there are fixed today. They owe that to the good men and women of the USS Ronald Reagan, who raced to their country to help people in dire need, only to be poisoned instead.
To read more about the revelations from the USS Ronald Reagan lawsuit, please read: https://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/02/27-3
Check out my Feb. 25 blog post about the latest radiation leaks from Fukushima: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/why-are-we-numb-to-the-horror-that-is-fukushima/
Read my Dec. 27, 2012 blog post about sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan suing Tepco: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/u-s-navy-sailors-sue-over-exposure-to-fukushima-radiation/