The American’s help to Japan during the crisis of March 2011 in the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami has cost many of the sailors dearly. Early March 2011 saw the nuclear powered USS Ronald Reagan on its way to South Korea when the deadly March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit the coast of Japan. The ship received new orders to sail to Japan to assist in rescue work. The rescue work was dubbed Operation Tomodachi or Friendship Operation.
On the way there, they passed through a snowstorm. Ship’s personnel reported “tasting metal” during the storm. At that time they were not aware of the state of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.
On 13 March 2011, the ship measured 0.6 mR/hr direct gamma shine from clouds 130 miles from Fukushima Daiichi. Members of the crew blamed their cancers on the event. On 14 March 2011, the ship was forced to relocate to avoid a radioactive plume from the Fukushima I nuclear accidents which had contaminated 17 crew members of three helicopter crews. Wikipedia After the ship was in Pacific off Japan’s coastline, the crew was advised to not take showers. The Ronald Reagan produces its fresh water by desalination of the sea. It is known now that large amounts of radioactive material were washed into the sea as well as the atmosphere.
As a precaution, the flight deck crew was assigned the job of cleaning the flight deck. There is a telling photo of the crew in regular clothing, some with mouths covered pushing brooms and soapy water across the deck. As the crew then went below decks they had their clothing checked for high radiation levels and sometimes the clothing was confiscated and destroyed. One former crewman recounted to Der Spiegel how his pants got taken away. He laughed about it at the time.
Some of the crew have already passed away. An estimated 500 are sick, some with advanced cancers.
A class action suit to try to get some support for these people in to be heard February 26th. TEPCO is just one of the groups named in the suit. The lawyers for the sick Americans are Paul Garner and Charles Bonner, known best for their human rights work.
The complaint is 100 pages long and contains the names of 247 sick sailors along with details pertaining to reactor construction, water samples taken, Navy tactics and Japanese politics. It assails company greed just as it does the negligence of those who built the Fukushima reactors -- and goes on to censure global politics and the cynicism of humankind. Der Spiegel Sources: Der Spiegel Stars and Stripes