USS Ronald Reagan & Fukushima


SUBHEAD: The USS Reagan was one mile from the Fukushima meltdowns. Sailors and even their children have been seriously injured.

Compiled by Juan Wilson on 15 December 2013 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2013/12/uss-ronald-reagan-fukushima.html)


Image above: Crew of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Reagan scrub radioactive particles off the flight deck without protecive suits. From (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_110323-N-DM338-113_Sailors_aboard_the_aircraft_carrier_USS_Ronald_Reagan_%28CVN_76%29_conduct_a_countermeasure_wash_down_on_the_flight_deck.jpg).

Navy Units to Support Tsunami-Damaged Areas on 3/11/11

By Public Affairs Office on 11 March 2011 for US Navy
(http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/lcc19/Pages/NavyUnitsPreparetoSupportTsunami-DamagedAreas.aspx#.Uq4pOvY9VIY)

U.S. Pacific Fleet ships in the Western Pacific were converging on Japan to be in the best position to help those in areas damaged by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

They include the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), which departed Southern California waters on March 5 for a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific and U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Reagan is the flagship of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which includes USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and USS Preble (DDG 88). All three ships were headed to Honshu's east coast. It is too early to say what they will be tasked with once they arrive.

USS Essex (LHD 2), also forward deployed to Sasebo, had just arrived in Malaysia, but is getting ready to return to Japan to rendezvous with USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and USS Germantown (LSD 42) off Tokyo to prepare for any humanitarian assistance/disaster relief duties.

USS Tortuga (LSD 46), a dock landing ship that carries helicopters and landing craft to support amphibious operations, left its forward deployed port of Sasebo in Southern Japan last evening to embark MH-53 heavy lift helicopters.

USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), the U.S. Seventh Fleet command ship, had arrived in Singapore yesterday for a port visit, but immediately changed its focus to loading humanitarian assistance/disaster relief equipment and preparing to return to Japan to provide support as directed.

"We obviously have huge sympathy for the people of Japan, and we are prepared to help them in any way we possibly can," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a statement. "It's obviously a very sophisticated country, but this is a huge disaster and we will do all, anything we are asked to do to help out."



USS Ronald Reagan on duty in Japan in March 2011
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Ronald_Reagan_%28CVN-76%29)


Image above: USS Reagan crew-member Juan Olguin sprays off radioactive contamination from F-18 Hornet fighter jet. From (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_110323-N-RG360-075_Lance_Cpl._Juan_Olguin_sprays_the_surface_of_an_F-A-18C_Hornet_aboard_the_aircraft_carrier_USS_Ronald_Reagan_%28CVN_76%29.jpg).

On 11 March 2011, the USS Reagan was in the Korean peninsula region for a long-planned exercise off Korea, but was redirected towards Japan to provide support after the massive 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

The ship, stationed off Sendai, was used as a floating refueling station for Japanese military and coast guard helicopters flying relief missions in the area. US Navy helicopters also flew relief missions from the carrier. 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 crewmembers of three helicopter crews.

 On 23 March, the Reagan's crew conducted a radiation decontamination operation to remove any further radiation hazards from the ship, which included scrubbing down any surface that could have been contaminated, including the flight deck and aircraft.

On 4 April 2011, Japan's minister of defense, Toshimi Kitazawa, accompanied by US ambassador to Japan John Roos, visited the ship to thank its crew for its assistance as part of Operation Tomodachi. Said Kitazawa, "I have never been more encouraged by and proud of the fact that the United States is our ally."



Carrier Ronald Reagan fights radioactive contamination

By Kelly Olson on 25 March 2011 for the Star Advertiser
(http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/118656424.html)


Image above: The flight deck of the USS Reagan is spray rinsed as part of radiation contamination cleanup. From (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_110323-N-NB544-120_The_aircraft_carrier_USS_Ronald_Reagan_(CVN_76)_conducts_a_countermeasure_wash_down_to_decontaminate_the_flight_deck_whi.jpg).

When U.S. Navy helicopters returned from a humanitarian mission on the first weekend following Japan's earthquake and tsunami, Lt. j.g. James Powell felt a slight unease.

Powell, the radiation health officer aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, knew there was a chance the choppers could have been exposed to radiation from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant as they ferried relief aid to northeastern Japan, and even though "the Japanese had told us we'd be fine," he still wanted to be sure.

"I was kind of nervous about it," the 30-year-old nuclear engineer said. "So I said, 'Let's just go check them, just in case. ... Let's just go check it out.'"

That was Sunday, March 13th, 2011 — two days after the earthquake and tsunami had hit the coast and one day after the first explosion from the nuclear plant.

Thus began three days of mostly sleepless nights for Powell as he and others worked to contain contamination to the $4.5 billion nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and calm the nerves of its crew of about 4,500.

Powell's first examination showed a level of radiation on the nose of a helicopter 50 times higher than the ship's standard. Further checks showed that helicopter crew members themselves were coming in contaminated.

"I'd never seen it on a nuclear-powered ship before, I'd never seen any skin contamination, never seen any sort of contamination anywhere that it wasn't supposed to be," Powell said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press on the deck of the carrier as sailors cleaned the expansive surface to try to strip it of any residual radioactivity.

While the checks of helicopter crews were being done, air samples were "coming back hot," Powell said of the situation on March 13.

The level of contamination in the air made it difficult to conduct accurate checks on people, so Powell took over the ship's barber shop — a poorly ventilated space that protected the air inside and kept the contamination level low enough to conduct accurate "frisks," or tests.

Meanwhile, the ship itself was taking evasive action, trying to move out of the area of the radioactive plume. After about two hours, it succeeded, Powell said.

"And then after that, we just started checking out the helicopters, checking out all the people, put them all in this little tiny room," he said. "It was kind of scary."

Powell was quick to point out that contamination levels were never anywhere close to what could be considered dangerous, emphasizing that no one on the ship was exposed to even half the radiation from a chest X-ray. "I would say not even a tenth," he added.

For Powell, the main challenge was all the uncertainty.

"I knew that we were OK as far as what we had hit, but it's just like, 'What the hell happened and what's gonna happen again?'" he said.

Soon the ship's entire reactor department got involved, setting up a central area, or "brain," with computers to funnel information to a single spot in a conference room, he said.

"We weren't panicking or freaking out," Powell said of himself and other officers familiar with the effects of radiation. "We were just trying to get a handle on what we had."

The cheery third-generation Navy man from Austin, Texas, studied nuclear engineering and physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. His knowledge of radiation and how it works gave him a keen edge over most of the Reagan's crew members not familiar with the frightening prospect of radioactive contamination.

Keeping a smile on his face was important as he worked to assuage the fears of the crew, who were seeing news reports about contamination that were scaring them and their families back home, he said.

Keeping "the human side" under control was important, Powell said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Kathy Duke of Zuni, New Mexico, said the crew's lack of experience with such a situation was a source of unease.

"I was a little bit afraid," she said. "I didn't know — OK, radiation. Nobody's ever gone through this at all."

Even people who had been in the Navy more than 15 years said they were experiencing this for the first time, Duke said.

At one point, the carrier's commanding officer announced that there was some radiation in the ship's drinking water supply, and "I know everybody went down to the vending machines to grab (a) bottle of water," Duke said.

"So I know everybody got a little bit scared," said Duke, who in charge of moving ordnance through the carrier's hanger bay and sending it up to the flight deck to be loaded onto aircraft.

Cmdr. Ron Rutan, the Reagan's chief engineer who supervised the swabbing of the deck and other surface areas, said such a cleanup was unprecedented.

"I don't know of any aircraft carrier that's ever been contaminated like this," he said.

Powell, the radiation officer, said that he only got two hours of sleep from Sunday until Wednesday. By then, things had calmed down significantly.

That doesn't mean, however, that the ship has lowered its vigilance. Visitors coming aboard even nine days later were thoroughly checked, as are crews still coming back from relief missions.

The mass cleanup of the ship's surface Wednesday was considered largely successful, although commanding officer Capt. Thom Burke, in an announcement over the vessel's public address system the next day, said that some "hot spots" remained.

Powell said he learned some valuable lessons — including how to set up mass decontamination stations — so that things will go smoother in the unlikely event that such an experience happens again.

He also learned something else.

"I know how to deal with 4,500 people freaking out," he said.



USS Ronald Reagan arrives in Pearl Harbor

By Staff on August 11 2011 for the Star Advertiser 
(http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/128726263.html)


Image above: USS Ronald Reagan returns to Pearl Harbor on 30 August 2011. From (http://damontucker.com/2011/08/31/uss-ronald-reagan-returns-to-pearl-harbor-hawaii/).

The 1,092-foot, $4.5 billion aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived at Pearl Harbor this morning, August 30th, 2011, for a port visit following a seven-month deployment.

The Reagan carrier strike group includes the guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville and the guided-missile destroyers Preble and Higgins, the Navy said.

After leaving its home port of San Diego on Feb. 2nd, 2011, the ships of the Reagan strike group provided aid in Japan following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck March 11th.

The Navy’s 7th Fleet repositioned its ships and aircraft away from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant March 13th.

The Reagan and 21 other U.S. Navy ships, 132 aircraft and more than 15,000 U.S. personnel helped with relief operations, delivering more than 260 tons of supplies to people ashore, the Navy said.

The Reagan and its strike group ended relief efforts in early April and took part in Malabar 2011, an exercise involving the U.S. and Indian navies. The exercise wrapped up April 9 and involved the Pearl Harbor frigate USS Reuben James, which was not part of the carrier strike group.

The strike group later operated in the Middle East with missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

[IB Publisher's note: After contamination in Japan why didn't the USS Reagan steam home in order to aide crew exposed to radiation? Instead they completed their tour schedule and delayed for months any help they might have gotten on shore. On September 7th 2011(from http://damontucker.com/tag/uss-ronald-reagan-cvn-76/) "Aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 and Helicopter AntiSubmarine Squadron 4 fly over the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a tiger cruise air show. Tiger cruises allow friends and family of deployed Sailors and Marines to spend time aboard a sea-going vessel to experience the ship's day-to-day operations. Ronald Reagan is returning from a seven-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Tidd)". This means family and friends of crewman were onboard USS Ronald Reagan after contamination in March of 2011. Another report indicated that some family sailed back to home port on the mainland aboard the ship.]



Sailor on USS Reagan ill from radiation

By Jed Boal on 14 August 2013 for KSL.com

(http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=26440227#wG8M1KZv7tRqA8Ar.99)

A Utah sailor who served on board the USS Ronald Reagan, the first ship to respond to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan, is sick.

Now Lt. j.g. Steve Simmons, with the U.S. Navy, wants answers, accountability and a treatment plan. But the Department of Defense says its expert testing does not substantiate the radiation sickness.

A tsunami set off by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, killed nearly 19,000 people and damaged the nuclear reactors at a plant in Fukushima, causing meltdowns and radiation leaks. Simmons served on the USS Reagan, off the shore of Japan, as it supported recovery efforts for more than a month.

"We knew that something was going on,” he said. “They didn't hide the fact that there was a radiation leak from the power plant that was melting down."

But he's not sure the Navy or any of the 5,500 on board knew of the severity.

Over the last 21 months, Simmons said his health has melted down, too, and he's not alone.

“I just don’t think they really knew the full scale of how bad it truly was,” he said.

Simmons and his wife, Summer, from Stansbury Park, have spent many days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., seeing doctors and getting treatment.

"We've never had any kind of health issues until he was exposed to radiation from Fukushima,” she said.

He believes he's suffering from radioactive contamination, but his doctors won't say that. "There's really nothing else that I know of that could have caused it,” he said.

After November 2011, Simmons said he went from being a fitness buff always up for a challenging hike to a shaking and withering patient who cannot walk on his own. He’s lost 25 pounds, down to 128 pounds, and lost 25 percent to 30 percent of his muscle mass.

"The muscle weakness has progressed to the point where he needs 24-hour care,” his wife said.

He’s been in and out of the hospital getting treated for his symptoms, but doctors won’t provide a diagnosis, he said. He and his wife are currently living in Maryland to be near the hospital.

"Our biggest frustration is the lack of accountability,” she said. “The fact that nobody is willing to say this was a mistake, and it needs to be acknowledged."

The maximum potential radiation dose for personnel on the ship was less than one month's exposure to natural background radiation from rocks, soil and sun, the Department of Defense said in a prepared statement.

"The very low levels of residual radioactivity that did deposit on the ship were mitigated and controlled," it said.

Attorney Paul C. Garner, representing 150 former sailors and Marines, has sued the Japanese power company and is seeking $3 billion to be set up in a fund to help victims.

Simmons is not part of the lawsuit.

“We’re not asking for much,” she said. We’re asking for the Navy to do for us what we’ve done for them. We’re asking them to step up and take care of those they put in harm’s way.”

He's especially concerned about the younger sailors and Marines. “Their lives are at stake as well,” he said.

He has served in the Navy for 16 years and had expected to stay well past 20 years.

“Those were the hopes and dreams that I had,” he said.

Without a diagnosis of his illness, Simmons finds himself ineligible for assistance from most of the nonprofits that help wounded soldiers with accessible housing. The family is using the fundraising site crowdtilt to raise $300,000 to build a home in Utah.*

"There are lots of people out there who want to do something, and they don't know how to help,” she said. “This is an opportunity for those people to actually help."

To see KSL-TV News report on radiation sickness illness crew suffered aboard USS Reagan after duty in Japan after tsunami click here (http://www.ksl.com/?sid=26440227&nid=148).



Eight crew of USS Reagan sue Tepco & Japan 
(http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/12/26/53414.htm)

Eight crew members of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, whose home port is San Diego, sued the Tokyo Electric Power Co. in Federal Court.

They claim the utility company, "a wholly owned public benefit subsidiary of the government of Japan," misrepresented radiation levels to lull the U.S. Navy "into a false sense of security."

Lead plaintiff Lindsay R. Cooper claims Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) intentionally concealed the dangerous levels of radiation in the environment from U.S. Navy rescue crews working off the coast of Japan after the March 10, 2011 earthquake and tsunami set off the nuclear disaster.

"TEPCO pursued a policy to cause rescuers, including the plaintiffs, to rush into an unsafe area which was too close to the FNPP [Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant] that had been damaged. Relying upon the misrepresentations regarding health and safety made by TEPCO ... the U.S. Navy was lulled into a false sense of security," the complaint states.

There were 5,500 sailors aboard the Reagan, the plaintiffs say, but this is not a class action. Six of the eight plaintiffs worked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier; two worked in air contamination or the "air department." One sued also on behalf of her infant daughter.

Japan called the relief effort Operation Tomadachi.

The complaint states: "Defendant TEPCO and the government of Japan, conspired and acted in concert, among other things, to create an illusory impression that the extent of the radiation that had leaked from the site of the FNPP was at levels that would not pose a threat to the plaintiffs, in order to promote its interests and those of the government of Japan, knowing that the information it disseminated was defective, incomplete and untrue, while omitting to disclose the extraordinary risks posed to the plaintiffs who were carrying out their assigned duties aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan."

It adds: "Defendant represented and warranted that the levels of contamination to which the plaintiffs would be exposed were less than harmful to them and that their presence during 'Operation Tomadachi' would not cause any different or greater harm to them than they may have experienced on missions in the past. ...

"At all times relevant times, the defendant, TEPCO, was aware that exposure to even a low dose of radiation creates a danger to one's health and that it is important to accurately report actual levels.

"As a consequence of the earthquake and tsunami, the reactors were damaged and power to the cooling mechanism of the FNPP was interrupted, resulting in a meltdown of the fuel and reactor itself, thereby triggering the release of high levels of radiation."

And, they say: "Defendants had actual and/or constructive knowledge of the properties of radiation that would ensure that, once released into the environment, radiation would spread further and in concentrations that would cause injury to the plaintiffs."

The plaintiffs claim the government deliberately misled them: "the Japanese government kept representing that there was no danger of radiation contamination to the U.S.S. Reagan ... and/or its crew, that 'everything is under control,' 'all is OK, you can trust us,' and there is 'no immediate danger' or threat to human life, all the while lying through their teeth about the reactor meltdowns at FNPP.

"Such reports were widely circulated with the defendant, TEPCO's, organization at the time it was published, despite the fact that the defendant knew that higher levels of radiation existed within the area whereat the plaintiffs and their vessel would be and were operating."

TEPCO controlled all activities at the power plant, so it is responsible for the plaintiffs' radiation exposure and subsequent damages, the sailors say.

"According to then-existing data uniquely known to the defendant at the time, the plaintiffs' consequent exposure to radiation within their zone of operation, then indicated that radiation levels had already reached levels exceeding the levels of exposure to which those living the same distance from Chernobyl experienced who subsequently developed cancer," the complaint states.

"Consequently, the potential for the development of cancer in the plaintiffs has also been enhanced due to the levels of exposure experienced by them during 'Operation Tomadachi.'"

The sailors say they "face additional and irreparable harm to their life expectancy, which has been shortened and cannot be restored to its prior condition."

The plaintiffs are Lindsay Cooper, James Sutton, Kim Gieseking and her daughter, Charles Yarris, Robert Miller, Christopher Bittner, Eric Membrila and Judy Goodwin.

They are seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages for fraud, negligence, strict liability, failure to warn, public and private nuisance, and defective design. They also want TEPCO ordered to establish a fund of $100 million to pay for their medical expenses.

They are represented by Paul Garner.



Another 20 USS Reagan sailors join suit

Interview with Charles Bonner on 10 December 2013 for Nuclear Hotseat
(http://enenews.com/another-20-navy-sailors-uss-ronald-reagan-crew-with-thyroid-cancer-leukemia-brain-tumors-bleeding-blindness-children-becoming-sick-after-responding-to-311-crisis-japan-govt-and-tepc)


Hear audio at either:
Nuclear Hotseat #129 Audio
Island Breath: Nuclear Hotseat #129

Crew members have thyroid cancers, leukemia, brain tumors, bleeding, blindness after Fukushima disaster — some infants developing problems.

At 27:00 in
Charles Bonner, attorney representing sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan: They’re not only going to the rescue by jumping into the water and rescuing people out of the water, but they were drinking desalinated sea water, bathing in it, until finally the captain of the USS Ronald Reagan alarmed people that they were encountering high levels of radiation. As a result of this exposure, the 51 sailors that we represent right now have come down with a host of medical problems, including cancers and leukemias, all kinds of gynecological problems [...] people who are going blind, pilots who had perfect eyesight but now have tumors on the brain. These service men and women are young people 21, 22, 23 years old and no one in their family had ever (inaudible) any of these kinds of illnesses before.

At 33:00
Bonner: These sailors had none of these kind of medical problems, now they have back pains, memory loss, severe anxiety. They have testicular cancer, they have thyroid cancers, they have leukemias, they have a host of problems, rectal and gynecological bleeding, a host of problems that they did not have before [...] And it’s only been 3 years since they went in. [...] The Japanese government is in a major conspiracy with Tepco to hide and conceal the true facts.

At 34:30 in
Bonner: We’ll be adding approximately 20 sailors, bringing the total number in the lawsuit to 70 to 75.

At 47:30 in
Bonner: 21 and 22 year-olds who are just beginning to start their lives, start their families, and many have little children and now they’re sick. They are going constantly to the doctors, their children are sick — we even have small children as some of our plaintiffs, because they too have developed problems.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Forever 12/17/13
.

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