The US Navy knew: Fukushima's 'hard rain' on USS Ronald Reagan

March 23, 2011 - The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan conducts a wash down while the ship is operating off the coast of Japan, to remove potential radiation contamination. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyle Carlstrom.
March 23, 2011 - The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan conducts a wash down while the ship is operating off the coast of Japan, to remove potential radiation contamination. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyle Carlstrom.
A telephone transcript released under the Freedom of Information Act shows: the US Navy knew that the USS Ronald Reagan took major radiation hits from the Fukushima atomic power plant after its '3/11' meltdowns and explosions.
You picked up stuff that was ambient which indicated that you actually were in the plume? 'That's correct.' And this was - this was 30 times higher than what you would have expected? 'Yes sir.'

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.

A wide range of ailments have been reported

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.

The US Navy knew

Officially, Tepco and the Navy say the dose levels were safe. But a stunning new report by an American scholar based in Tokyo confirms that Naval officers communicated about what they knew to be the serious irradiation of the Reagan.

Written by Kyle Cunningham and published in Japan Focus, "Mobilizing Nuclear Bias" describes the interplay between the U.S. and Japanese governments as Fukushima devolved into disaster.

Cunningham writes that transcribed conversations obtained through the Freedom of Information Act feature naval officials who acknowledge that even while 100 miles away from Fukushima, the Reagan's readings are highly elevated.

You picked up stuff that was ambient which indicated that you actually were in the plume? 'That's correct.' And this was - this was 30 times higher than what you would have expected? 'Yes sir.'

Admiral Donald: (...) Earlier this evening, as the USS Ronald Reagan was operating off the coast of Japan, we - the ship just arrived. We had given the ship some guidance as far as positioning was concerned to stay clear of the area of the potential plume, basically told her to stay 50 miles outside of the radius of the - 100 miles - excuse me - 50 miles radius outside of the plant and then 100 miles along the plume with a vector of 45 degrees. The ship was adhering to that requirement and detected some activity about two and a half times above normal airborne activity using on-board sensors on the aircraft carriers. So that indicated that they had found the plume and it was probably more significant than what we had originally thought. The second thing that has happened is we have had some helicopters conducting operations from the aircraft carrier and one of the helicopters came back from having stopped on board the Japanese command ship in the area, and people who had been on - were on the helicopter who had walked on the deck of the ship, were monitored and had elevated counts on their feet, 2500 counts per minute. But I wanted to get you guys on the line and my expert on the line so we can get the data and then the proper people notified.
Mr Poneman: Okay, I have a couple of questions. Number one, in terms of the level of radiation that you are picking up, what's the delta between that and any information we have from the Japanese or other sources of what the level of radiation would be, given the venting and so forth that we know has occurred?
Mr Mueller: So - this is Mueller - the sample that was taken and then what we detected, we were 100 nautical miles away and it's - in our terms it's - compared to just normal background it's about 30 times what you would detect just on a normal air sample out at sea. And so we thought - we thought based on what we had heard on the reactors that we wouldn't detect that level even at 25 miles. So it's much greater than what we had thought. We didn't think we would detect anything at 100 miles.
Mr Poneman: You didn't think you'd detect anything at 100 miles. Okay, and then in terms of the regulations and so forth of people operating in these kinds of areas, I forget some you know, acronym for it, PAG (Protective Action Guidelines) or something, how do the levels detected compare with what is permissible?
Mr Mueller: If it were a member of the general public, it would take - well, it would take about 10 hours to reach a limit, a PAG limit.
Mr Mueller: Right. For a member of the public.
Mr Poneman: Right. You mean, at the level you detected?
Mr Mueller: Yes sir. But 10 hours, it's a thyroid dose issue.
Mr Poneman: Okay, but the net of all this is that the amount of release that is detected by these two episodes whatever you would call them, is significantly higher than anything you would have expected what you have been reading from all sources?
Mr Mueller: Yes sir. The number specific number we detected was 2.5 the times 10 to the 88 minus nine microcuries per milliliter, airborne, and that's particulate airborne. It is - we did not take radioiodide samples so I don't know that value, but this is particulate airborne...
Mr Poneman: Tell me again exactly how you picked up these two forms of samples.
Mr Mueller: We have automatic detectors in the plant that picked up - picked up the airborne, and all of our continuous monitors alarmed at the same level, at this value. And then we took portable air samples on the flight desk and got the same value.
Admiral Donald: These are normally running continuous detectors, continuous monitors that run in the engine room all the time, monitoring our equipment.
Mr Poneman: These are detectors on the Reagan?
Admiral Donald: On the Ronald Reagan, correct.
Mr Mueller: Yes sir.
Mr Poneman: On the Ronald Reagan. They are there because you have got equipment there that you know, it could emit stuff and while you were there, you picked up stuff that was ambient which indicated that you actually were in the plume?
Mr Mueller: That's correct.
Mr Poneman: And this was - this was 30 times higher than what you would have expected?
Mr Mueller: Yes sir.

This is an extract from Mobilizing Nuclear Bias: The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis and the Politics of Uncertainty. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2011, March 13). Freedom of Information Act document NRC-944.

Serious fallout was also apparently found on helicopters coming back from relief missions. One unnamed U.S. government expert is quoted in the Japan Focus article as saying:

"At 100 meters away it (the helicopter) was reading 4 sieverts per hour. That is an astronomical number and it told me, what that number means to me, a trained person, is there is no water on the reactor cores and they are just melting down, there is nothing containing the release of radioactivity. It is an unmitigated, unshielded number." Confidential communication, Sept. 17, 2012.]

Tepco and the Navy contend the Reagan did not receive a high enough dose to warrant serious concern. But Japan, South Korea and Guam deemed the carrier too radioactive to enter their ports. Stock photographs show sailors working en masse to scrub the ship down.

It's not getting any better

The $4.3 billion boat is now docked in San Diego. Critics question whether it belongs there at all. Attempts to decontaminate U.S. ships irradiated during the Pacific nuclear bombs tests from 1946-1963 proved fruitless. Hundreds of sailors were exposed to heavy doses of radiation, but some ships had to be sunk anyway.

Leaks at the Fukushima site continue to worsen. Despite its denials, Tepco recently admitted it had underestimated certain radiation releases by a factor of 500 percent. A new report indicates that particles of radioactive Cesium 134 from Fukushima have been detected in the ocean off the west coast of North America.

Global concerns continue to rise about Fukushima's on-going crises with liquid leaks, the troubled removal of radioactive fuel rods, the search for three missing melted cores, organized crime influence at the site and much more.

The flow of information has been seriously darkened by the pro-nuclear Abe Administration's State Secrets Act, which imposes major penalties on those who might report what happens at Fukushima.

Sailors 'barred' from suing

But if this new evidence holds true, it means that the Navy knew the Ronald Reagan was being plastered with serious radioactive fallout and it casts the accident in a light even more sinister than previously believed.

The stricken sailors are barred from suing the Navy, and their case against Tepco will depend on a series of complex international challenges. But one thing is certain: neither they nor the global community have been getting anything near the full truth about Fukushima.



Harvey Wasserman is editor of the Nuke Free website.

This article was originally published on Nuke Free under the title 'Documents Show the Navy Knew Fukushima Dangerously Contaminated the USS Reagan'


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