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USS Ronald Reagan

Tag Archives | USS Ronald Reagan

Radiation and the USS Ronald Reagan

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DoD Photo
DoD Photo

DoD Photo

The USS Ronald Reagan is in the news because several dozen crewmembers of the Reagan are trying to sue TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation, for concealing the radiation release and thereby damaging their health (unsurprisingly, members of the armed services are precluded from suing the US military for damage to their health, so redress must be sought elsewhere). I try to tiptoe between the two extremes of radiation alarmism and, I guess, radio-blasé-ism, but in the end I come down on the side that the contamination was pretty serious. The Ronald Reagan was caught in a washout. As the Fukushima plume was passing overhead, a snowstorm brought radioactive nasties down to the ship, and the water surrounding the ship.

The “nothing to see here” position is that the Reagan was exposed to the equivalent of an extra few weeks of background radiation. Trouble is, washed-out fallout isn’t distributed in a neat, uniform radioactive haze. It’s lumpy, sticky, filled with hot particles, and prone to “hot spots.” It is not terribly reassuring to Sailor A that measured radioactive contamination is averaging out to a gentle buzz if he or she is worried about standing on or next to a hot spot. The USS Ronald Reagan spent a couple months at sea after contamination trying to clean itself up; then, according to a lawyer for the sailors claiming injury, it was decontaminated at a port in Washington state for another year and a half before returning to service.

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A Sane and Sober Look at the USS Reagan Radiation Contamination Incident

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DoD Photo
DoD Photo

DoD Photo

From Radiation - Exposure and its treatment: A modern handbook, “During the Manhattan Project, a squad of infantry soldiers without protection dug foxholes a quarter mile from one of the Alamogordo bomb tests. When the atom bomb exploded atop its tower, it was so bright a soldier said he saw through his eyelids, through the blood vessels, skin and muscles of his arm, to the grains of sand on the side of his foxhole. After the blast, the squad marched to ground zero as ordered and disassembled their rifles…The squad reassembled their rifles and marched out through clouds of dust. All of them got serious radiation sickness.”

“All of them recovered, went home and had families. Their children were normal. At 20 years past their exposure they started to die of lymphomas and sarcomas. By 30 years, all of them had died of some type of cancer. Even with a dose that nearly kills you, it takes decades to develop cancer – if you do.”

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Contamination of USS Ronald Reagan During Fukushima Response Underreported

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DoD Photo
DoD Photo

DoD Photo

“The U.S. Navy took proactive measures throughout and following the disaster relief efforts to control, reduce and mitigate the levels of Fukushima-related contamination on U.S. Navy ships and aircraft.” – Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Anthony Falvo

[Update: In 2013, Japan Focus published two superb pieces by investigative reporter Roger Witherspoon on the US military's response to radioactive contamination during Operation Tomodachi: click here and here. His interviews with servicemen and women who served on the Reagan--and in many other locations and capacities during the relief operation, describe the harrowing circumstances of trying, sometimes unsuccessfully, to predict and dodge the Fukushima plume and deal with onboard contamination of people as well as equipment. Witherspoon's account begs the question of why the Department of Defense saw fit to discontinue the Todomachi Medical Registry, which would have established baseline data for exposed personnel and monitored them for health problems. CH 2/5/14]

As was reported in 2011, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was exposed to radiation contamination from Fukushima during its earthquake/tsunami rescue operations—“Operation Tomodachi”-off the Japan coast. The original coverage minimized the significance of the contamination, saying it was equivalent to an extra month’s background radiation.

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