U.S. Sailors Sue for Illnesses They Believe Caused by Fukushima

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On 12 March 2011, the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi complex, owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc., approximately 150 miles north of Tokyo, was effectively destroyed by a tsunami that followed an offshore 9.0 Richter scale earthquake. The same day, U.S. Ambassador to Japan John V. Roos declared a disaster due to the effects of the earthquake and tsunami. In response, the USAID activated a Response Management Team in Washington, D.C., and deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Japan to coordinate U.S. government response efforts in Japan. On 13 March, the two urban search and rescue teams arrived in Japan as part of the DART.

Following a request for help from the Japanese government, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered 101,400-ton carrier and its strike group, en route to South Korea — where it was scheduled to participate in a joint South Korean-U.S. military exercise the following week and operating at sea about 100 miles northeast of the NPP – changed course and arrived off the stricken facility the next day to participate in relief operations. In all, 24 U.S. Navy ships, 189 aircrafts, and 24,000 service personnel were deployed to help Japan in Operation Tomodachi.

By the end of the day, the USS Ronald Reagan had conducted six maritime search and rescue missions and 20 helicopter missions to deliver supplies to ships at sea and three towns near Sendai. But then, after four days, the U.S. 7th Fleet temporarily repositioned its ships and aircraft away from downwind from the Fukushima Daiichi NPP after detecting low level contamination in the air and on its aircraft operating in the area. A Navy press release at the time said, “For perspective, the maximum potential radiation dose received by any ship’s force personnel aboard the ship when it passed through the area was less than the radiation exposure received from about one month of exposure to natural background radiation from sources such as rocks, soil, and the sun.”

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