Scores of US sailors sickened after warship exposed to Fukushima fallout; toll climbing

Posted on Jan 22, 2014 in Medical Rewind, Political

An alarming number of US Navy sailors have fallen ill after operations near the Fukushima nuclear incident.

Sailors were dispatched to the incident on board the USS Ronald Reagan after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami severely damaged the power plant. Crewmen reported “snow “falling when they arrived. It was later learned the snowfall was caused by cool air combined with highly radioactive steam released from a mangled reactor. Witnesses said shipboard radiation detectors sounded when the vessel was 100 miles from shore.

The nuclear-powered warship is equipped with radiation detection alarms designed to sound when levels spike above normal. Measurements later revealed the vessel had become thoroughly irradiated after taking in contaminated seawater for desalination and use for drinking and bathing. Officials in South Korea, Japan and Guam refused the Ronald Reagan entry into port, citing contamination concerns, until Thailand agreed to take it in.

Meanwhile, decontamination efforts were underway. Radiation levels climbed to 300 times safe limits, according to decontamination specialist, Senior Chief Michael Seabourn. Seabourn is among sailors developing symptoms of radiation-related illnesses.

Forced to retire from the Navy due to debilitating ailments, the former fitness trainer lost 60 percent of the strength in the right side of his body. The number of sailors suffering symptoms is now 70 but that figure continues to rise, according to attorney Charles Bonner. Bonner said an influx of new cases prompted re-filing of a lawsuit against TEPCO, the owner of the devastated nuclear plant, on behalf of sickened Navy personnel.

The suit alleges TEPCO withheld information that the radioactive plume had been released. Had TEPCO warned authorities, the Ronald Reagan could have escaped the deadly cloud, Bonner said. In addition to sailors working on deck for 18 hours at a time, some jumped into the contaminated waters to help victims, he added.


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