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US Sailors Sue Japanese Utility Over Radiation Exposure


March 20, 2013
Beth Ford Roth / KPBS & Star Priscilla / Coalition Against Nukes & Investment Watchblog

It was really, really bad aboard the USS Ronald Reagan during its Fukushima Mission. 150 US service members claim exposure to Fukushima radiation has triggered medical persistent health issues. Back in the US, they say the Defense Department has abandons them, leaving them on their own. Today they held a press conference to inform the public how bad it was aboard the navy vessel, living in fear every day -- some sailors even tried to commit suicide.

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2013/mar/15/more-uss-reagan-sailors-sue-japanese-utility-over-/?utm

More USS Reagan Sailors Sue
Japanese Utility Over Radiation Exposure

Beth Ford Roth / KPBS



Reagan Sailors Say Radiation Made Them Sick

(March 15, 2013) -- Another group of USS Ronald Reagan sailors is suing a Japanese utility for illnesses they say they're suffering from due to radiation exposure after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Wall Street Journal reports 26 US residents who were part of a "crew of a US naval carrier" filed suit today against Toyko Electric Power Co.

The Japanese utility, known as Tepco, said the suit was filed with a local court in California, claiming that they suffered physical, economic and mental damage, as the utility intentionally provided inaccurate information about radiation exposure.

The utility said the residents are demanding Tepco set up a $1 billion fund for damage compensation and are also calling for compensation for each plaintiff.

CBS News reported earlier this week that more than 100 former and current Reagan crew members have joined a federal lawsuit against Tepco for radiation exposure.

As Home Post previously reported, eight Reagan sailors filed that lawsuit in US District Court in San Diego in December of 2012. (The Reagan was homeported in San Diego at the time of the earthquake, but is currently based in Washington State.)

In response to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Reagan participated in the humanitarian mission called Operation Tomodachi -- bringing food, water, and medical supplies to the people of Japan.




STORIES OF BETRAYAL FROM SICK
FUKUSHIMA-RADIATED NAVAL SERVICES

HELEN CALDICOTT FOUNDATION FUKUSHIMA SYMPOSIUM: 3-11-13
Star Priscilla / Coalition Against Nukes


Of all the testimonies heard at the symposium, the most poignant came from this young couple who had been working on the US Naval carrier at the time of the meltdowns. We all must help these whistleblowers by offering them press conferences in our various communities so they never fall into the vortex of "disappearing news."


The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident

(March 11, 2013) -- Navy Quartermasters Jamie Plime and Maurice Ennes tell their stories of illness's from being on board the USS Ronald Reagan. They were never warned of any danger and were only 2 miles offshore of Fukushima! US Navy Refuses Care to Service Men and Women for Radiation Exposure from Fukushima!

"We stayed about 80 days, and we would stay as close as two miles offshore and then sail away"
-- Navy Quartermaster Maurice Enis, navigator on the USS Ronald Reagan.

The Department of Defense has decided to walk away from an unprecedented medical registry of nearly 70,000 American service members, civilian workers, and their families caught in the radioactive clouds blowing from the destroyed nuclear power plants at Fukushima Daiichi.

The decision to cease updating the registry means there will be no way to determine if patterns of health problems emerge among the members of the Marines, Army, Air Force, Corps of Engineers, and Navy stationed at 63 installations in Japan with their families. In addition, it leaves thousands of sailors and Marines in the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group 7 on their own when it comes to determining if any of them are developing problems caused by radiation exposure.

So far, however, more than 150 service men and women who participated in the rescue mission and have since developed a variety of medical issues -- including tumors, tremors, internal bleeding, and hair loss -- which they feel were triggered by their exposure to radiation.

The decision by the Defense Department to abandon the registry leaves them on their own.

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USS Ronald Reagan Completes a
Radiological Countermeasure Washdown


WESTERN PACIFIC OCEAN (March 23, 2011) -- US Navy Sailors and Marines assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and Carrier Air Wing 14 wash down the flight deck, aircraft and exterior components of the ship during a counter-measure wash down. Crewmembers scrubbed the external surfaces on the flight deck and island superstructure to remove potential radiation contamination.

Ronald Reagan is operating off the coast of Japan to provide disaster relief and humanitarian assistance as directed in support of Operation Tomodachi.


America Abandons Navy Sailors
Exposed to Fukushima Radiation on USS Reagan

Investment Watchblog

(March 13, 2013) -- It was really, really bad aboard the USS Ronald Reagan during its Fukushima Mission.

Today they went on a press conference to remind us how bad it was, living in fear every day, some tried to commit suicide.
Audio.

Over 150 US service members say Fukushima radiation has triggered medical issues. Now Defense Department abandons medical registry, leaving them on their own.

A sailor's testimony: I was treated as if I had the plague. [Listen to the audio.]

During our 2011 deployment on the USS Ronald Reagan, we went through a radiation plume after heading to help out Japan after the earthquake/tsunami. This is what we had to go through every time we came back off the flight deck. This was the only entry point from the flight deck.



This is a very sad video. I find it even sadder today. The laughter is heartbreaking, as it reminds me of how young these men and women are. It reminds me of how we as humans deal with difficult issues in a group setting. They are worried not joyful.


Fukushima Rescue Mission Lasting Legacy:
Radioactive Contamination of Americans

Roger Witherspoon / New Jersey Newsroom

(January 31, 2013) -- The Department of Defense has decided to walk away from an unprecedented medical registry of nearly 70,000 American service members, civilian workers, and their families caught in the radioactive clouds blowing from the destroyed nuclear power plants at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan.

The decision to cease updating the registry means there will be no way to determine if patterns of health problems emerge among the members of the Marines, Army, Air Force, Corps of Engineers, and Navy stationed at 63 installations in Japan with their families.

In addition, it leaves thousands of sailors and Marines in the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group 7 on their own when it comes to determining if any of them are developing problems caused by radiation exposure.

The strike group was detoured from its South Pacific duties and brought to Fukushima for Operation Tomodachi, using the Japanese word for "friend." It was an 80-day humanitarian aid and rescue mission in the wake of the earthquake and massive tsunami that decimated the northern coastline and killed more than 20,000 people.

The rescue operation was requested by the Japanese Government and coordinated by the US State Department, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Departments of Defense and Energy. In addition to the USS Ronald Reagan with its crew of 5,500, the Strike Group included four destroyers -- The Preble, McCampbell, Curtis Wilbur, and McCain -- the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, and several support ships (http://bit.ly/11bfTqS).

It was the participants in Operation Tomodachi -- land-based truck drivers and helicopter crews, and carrier based aircraft and landing craft -- who were repeatedly trying to guess where the radioactive clouds were blowing and steer paths out of the way.

It was unsuccessful on more than one occasion, according to Defense Department records and participants, resulting in efforts to decontaminate ships travelling through contaminated waters and cleansing helicopters only to send them right back into radioactive clouds.

So far, however, more than 150 service men and women who participated in the rescue mission and have since developed a variety of medical issues -- including tumors, tremors, internal bleeding, and hair loss -- which they feel were triggered by their exposure to radiation.

They do not blame the Navy for their predicament, but are joined in an expanding law suit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, for providing false information to the US officials about the extent of spreading radiation from its stricken reactors at Fukushima. And the decision by the Defense Department to abandon the registry leaves them on their own. (http://bit.ly/XpfJW5)

Jobs are compartmentalized at sea explained Navy Quartermasters Maurice Enis and Jaime Plym, two of the navigators on the carrier Reagan. Few of those on board knew there were dangerous radioactive plumes blowing in the wind and none knew what ocean currents might be contaminated. They did know there were problems when alarms went off.

"We make our own water through desalinization plants on board," said Plym, a 28-year-old from St. Augustine, Florida. "But it comes from the ocean and the ocean was contaminated. So we had to get rid of all the water on the ship and keep scouring it and testing it till it was clean.

"You have a nuclear power plant inside the ship that uses water for cooling, and they didn't want to contaminate our reactor with their reactors' radiation."

But avoiding it was not easy. It meant going far enough out to sea where there were no contaminated currents, washing down the ship and its pipes, and then going back towards shore.

"We could actually see the certain parts of the navigation chart where radiation was at, and to navigate through that was nerve wracking," said Enis. "The general public, like the ship, didn't really know where it was or what it was and relied on word-of-mouth and rumors. We have more information, but there was no absolute way for us to know how much radiation was out there because we were still being told by the (Japanese) power company that we shouldn't worry.

"We stayed about 80 days, and we would stay as close as two miles offshore and then sail away. It was a cat and mouse game depending on which way the wind was blowing. We kept coming back because it was a matter of helping the people of Japan who needed help. But it would put us in a different dangerous area. After the first scare and we found there was radiation when they (the power company) told us there was none, we went on lockdown and had to carry around the gas masks."

When it came to getting timely information on radiation, the Americans on land were just as much at sea. Gregory Jaczko, then Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, urged the evacuation of all Americans within 50 miles of the stricken reactors. And the Defense Department evacuated women and children from the Yokosuka Naval Base, located 300 miles south of Fukushima, after sensors picked up increases in background radiation.

Information was hard to come by, exacerbated by the rigidity of the Japanese bureaucracy. Two nuclear experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists, David Lochbaum, who has worked as a consultant for the NRC and industry, and Ed Lyman, a nuclear physicist, have examined thousands of government emails and cable traffic during a confusing period where the database shifted by the hour and concrete information was hard to come by.

"After the explosion in Fukushima Daiichi Unit #4 the Japanese were not able to get enough water into the building to keep the spent fuel pool cool," Lochbaum said. "So the US airlifted a concrete pumper truck all the way from Australia to an American naval base in the northern part of the island. And the Japanese would not let it leave the base because it wasn't licensed to travel on Japanese roads. Given the magnitude of their problems, that seemed to be the wrong priority.

"But the Japanese culture is more like a symphony, where everyone follows the conductor's lead. Whereas American society is more like a jazz ensemble where everyone is playing together, but improvisation is prized."

The inability to get cohesive, trustworthy information from the Japanese hampered the American rescue effort.

Michael Sebourn, senior chief mechanic for the helicopter squadron based at Atsugi, about 60 miles from Fukushima, recalled that "after the earthquake and tsunami we were given one day notice to pack up the command and go to Misawa, Japan Air Base to provide relief efforts to the Sendai and Fukushima areas. All of the other squadrons were evacuating to Guam.

There was a big possibility that the base at Atsugi would be shut down and we would never be returning. We were told to put our names and phone numbers on the dashboards of the cars because we would probably not get them back.

"We were in Misawa 3 ½ weeks, working every day, flying mission after mission after mission to pick people up, rescue people, ferry supplies and things like that. There were a few nuclear technicians scanning individuals coming back from missions. Many times they would cut off their uniforms."

Sebourn was sent to Guam for three days of intensive training and became the designated radiation officer. It wasn't easy.

"This was a completely unprecedented event," he said. "We had never dealt with radiation before. We were completely brand new to everything and everyone was clueless. We had had drills dealing with chemical and biological warfare. But we never had any drills dealing with radiation. That was nuclear stuff and we didn't do nuclear stuff. The aviation guys had never dealt with radiation before. We had never had aircraft that was radiated. So we were completely flying blind."

There were rules for Sebourn's group of mechanics. They scanned the returning helicopters for radiation, and then removed any contaminated parts and put them in special containers filled with water and stored on an isolated tarmac. It began snowing in Misawa so the group moved back to their base at Atsugi, closer to Fukushima. Sebourn tracked varying radiation levels in units called Corrected Counts Per Minute on their electronic detectors.

"Normal outside radiation exposure is between five and 10 CCPM," he said. "And that's from the sun. At Atsugi, the background readings were between 200 and 300 CCPM in the air. It was all over. The water was radiated. The ground was radiated. The air was radiated.

"The rule was if there was anything over a count of 500 you needed special gloves. Over 1,000 CCPM and you needed a Tyvek radiation suit. And if it was over 5,000 you needed an entire outfit -- suit, respirator, goggles, and two sets of gloves. You couldn't put a contaminated radiator back into the helicopters -- they had to be replaced. I remember pulling out a radiator and it read 60,000 CCPM."

But in the end, the safety equipment may not have been enough.

The Tomodachi Medical Registry, developed over a two-year period and completed at the end of 2012, was a collective effort of the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Veterans Affairs launched at the insistence of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. ( http://bit.ly/14ABPuj)

It was an exhaustive registry essential to develop a medical baseline from which to determine if there were any long lasting repercussions from exposure to radioactivity -- particularly iodine and cesium -- spewing for months from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor units 1 through 4 into both the air and the sea.

The Registry was unparalleled in its depth. The Defense Department's 252-page assessment of radiation doses the 70,000 Americans may have been exposed to is broken down by a host of factors, including proximity to Fukushima, the type of work being done and its impact on breathing rates, changing weather patterns, sex, size, and age. In the latter category children were divided into six different age groups, reflecting their varying susceptibility to radiation. (http://bit.ly/U42a1).

In addition, the report states "over 8,000 individuals were monitored for internal radioactive materials and the results of those tests were compared with the calculated doses."

In the end, however, the Department concluded that their estimates of the maximum possible whole body and thyroid doses of contaminants were not severe enough to warrant further examination.

Navy spokesman Lt. Matthew Allen, in a written statement, said "The DoD has very high confidence in the accuracy of the dose estimates, which were arrived at using highly conservative exposure assumptions (i.e., assuming individuals were outside 24 hours a day for the 60 days in which for environmental radiation levels were elevated and while breathing at higher than normal rates).

"The estimated doses were closely reviewed by the Veterans' Advisory Board on Dose Reconstruction and by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements who both agreed that the methods used to calculate the estimates were appropriate and the results accurate. In addition the dose estimates were consistent with the estimates made by the Japanese government and by the World Health Organization."

Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith added that as a result of the agency's decision that there was no serious contamination, "There are no health surveillance measures required for any member of the DoD-affiliated population who was on or near the mainland of Japan following the accident and subsequent radiological release from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station beginning on or about March 11, 2011."

But there are skeptics of the Defense Department's blanket conclusion that there was not enough radiation poured into the environment to warrant continuous monitoring of the men, women, and children living and working there.

"Radiation does not spread in a homogenous mix," said Lochbaum. "There are hot spots and low spots and nobody knows who is in a high zone or in a low zone. Who knows what the actual radiation dose to an individual is? There are no measurements of what they consumed in water and food.

"This is the Navy's best attempt to take a few data points they have and extrapolate over the entire group. They took a lot of measurements, but those represent just a pint in time. It's like taking a strobe light outside to take a picture of a nighttime scene. Every time the strobe flashes you will get shots in spots of the area. But do you really capture all of the darkness?"

Winifred Bird contributed reporting from Japan
Roger Witherspoon writes Energy Matters at

www.RogerWitherspoon.com

Leaving the Navy, Living with Doubt profiles three sailors who sought careers in the Navy and were contaminated at Fukushima. They have now left the Navy, and wonder what the future holds.

Comments
Mr. Witherspoon, I like this article but there are some things that I need to point out.
First, I found one or more place name mistakes here in the article, and that is very crucial to understand the fact and the information that you provided in your article.

Please reconfirm the names and correct them, so that you can provide better and trust worthy information to the general public who are following the incident just like me.

I'm from Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture and I know Japanese Geography. The distance from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant is a very important matter due to understand correctly.

I found the military base name Atsugi, was used wrong in some sentences. Atsugi base is in Kanagawa prefecture and it is right next from Tokyo. And Atsugi base is right next from Yokosuka base, and both of them are in Kanagawa prefecture. You described "the Yokosuka Naval Base, located 300 miles south of Fukushima," and Atsugi base should be almost the same distance.

This must be not Atsugi base, must be different name.
quotes from your article:
"Michael Sebourn, senior chief mechanic for the helicopter squadron based at Atsugi, about 60 miles from Fukushima… It began snowing in Misawa so the group moved back to their base at Atsugi, closer to Fukushima."

My point is that the Atsugi base you mention must be somewhere much closer one to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi. Please find out the right place name. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense. The next thing I found mistake is this. CCPM, ??? This must be CPM (Count Per Minute), that is a radiation monitoring measurement in the air. One letter "C" extra. Please correct this also. Thank you.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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