The lawsuit filed by sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its support ships has been covered by some mainstream media, albeit on the inside pages (even Fox News). I would venture that, despite the almost total media blackout on all things Fukushima, it’s being covered because it relates to the first days and weeks of the Fukushima disaster, and involves the usual flag waving patriotic stuff. Hardly any of the news items about the sailors’ lawsuit mentions that Fukushima is still an ongoing disaster.
Here’s a bit of background: in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, the USS Ronald Reagan and its carrier taskforce of 12 warships took part in a humanitarian relief effort called Operation ‘Tomadachi’ (‘Friendship’). By funny coincidence the USS Reagan taskforce found itself right off the coast of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, shortly after the reactors and fuel pools were blowing up and melting down. The sailors on these US warships (some 12,000 in total) received huge amounts of radiation, and many of them are now sick and dying. By law, the sailors can’t sue the US Navy (if you join the military you are not allowed to sue the military), and the US Navy completely denies that radiation has anything to do with the sailors’ illnesses, and refuses to offer them any help whatsoever, and so the lawsuit is being filed against the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the Fukushima plant, and the Japanese government (you can find a recent news report about the case here).
After spending 80 days trying to dodge highly radioactive plumes, the USS Reagan left the coastal waters of Japan, because the Japanese refused to allow it into port because the ship was too radioactive. South Korea and Guam also refused to allow the USS Reagan into port, for the same reason. Thailand did allow the USS Reagan to dock for a short while, then it returned to its home port of San Diego, on the west coast of America. Some people are saying that the USS Ronald Reagan is now so irradiated that it will have to be scrapped or sunk (it’s one of the largest aircraft carriers in the world and cost the US tax payer $6 billion to build). However, in January 2012 the USS Reagan went to Puget Sound Naval Ship Yard in Washington state, for a ‘Docked Planned Incremental Availability’, which presumably meant decontamination. It was at the Puget Sound Naval Ship Yard for just over a year, returning to its home port of San Diego in March 2013. Last month, January 2014, the US Navy announced that the USS Reagan would replace the USS George Washington as the only forward deployed carrier at Yokosuka, Japan. Make of that what you will. All I’ll say is that if I were an American sailor I wouldn’t be queueing up to serve on the USS Ronald Reagan (you can find more details about how difficult it is to decontaminate ships here). As for the other 12 ships that made up the Reagan’s fleet, I give details about some of them at the end of this post.
Now, not so many years ago, in another world, all of this would have made front page headlines; but alas we now live in a corporate controlled nightmare. The only people who attempt to report what’s going on are bloggers and foreign media, such as Al Jazeera and RT. Talking of which, here’s an RT piece, from last month, about the USS Reagan and the sailors’ lawsuit…
The latest news I can find on the USS Reagan lawsuit is from earlier this week, when Charles Bonner, an attorney representing the USS Ronald Reagan sailors, was interviewed by Libbe HaLevy on her Nuclear Hotseat blog. This interview is well worth a listen (Note: if YouTube block the following video you can find the original here. The interview with Charles Bonner starts at about 28 minutes into the programme)…
On March 15th 2011, four days after the Fukushima disaster began, the US Navy began diverting Operation Tomadachi ships to the west coast of Japan, because they knew about the radiation hazard (here). However, the USS Ronald Reagan and most its Carrier Strike Group were ordered to continue operations off the north east coast of Japan, which was where the earthquake and tsunami damage was. Here’s details about some of the ships that were with the USS Ronald Reagan:
USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) is a guided missile destroyer. In March 2011, during Operation ‘Tomadachi’, the ship may have been exposed to leaking radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accidents.
USNS Bridge is a supply ship. In April 2013, it was announced that the MSC will take USNS BRIDGE out of service in 2014 as a cost-saving measure.
USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) is a destroyer. Last listed deployment was in Singapore, summer 2013. Present deployment unknown.
USS McCain (DDG-56) is a destroyer. In March 2011, during Operation ‘Tomadachi’, the ship may have been exposed to leaking radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accidents.
USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) is a guided-missile cruiser. In March 2011, during Operation ‘Tomadachi’, the ship may have been exposed to leaking radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accidents.
USS Cowpens (CG-63) is a guided missile cruiser and was scheduled to be decommissioned on 31 March 2013. However, Cowpens was retained under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
For further reading I would recommend this excellent article from Roger-Witherspoon, which is in two parts: