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Boardman writes: "If the 2 percent with elevated exposure levels found by the Pentagon is relevant, then there would be something like 1,400 potential plaintiffs among the 70,000 service members who were part of Operation Tomodachi."

A U.S. sailor scrubs the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to remove potential radiation contamination on March 23, 2011 while operating off the coast of Japan during Operation Tomodachi. (photo: Alexander Tidd/U.S. Navy)
A U.S. sailor scrubs the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to remove potential radiation contamination on March 23, 2011 while operating off the coast of Japan during Operation Tomodachi. (photo: Alexander Tidd/U.S. Navy)

US Navy Sailors Sue TEPCO Over Cluster-Fukushima Snafu

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

18 December 13


"Why has this not made national headlines??? The Aircraft Carrier Ronald Reagan is nuclear powered. Radiation detection equipment did not pick up on this?? Why have these sailors and marines medical records been removed from permanent tracking. Criminal implications galore. This should be all over mainstream media. Someone please forward all these ene reports to the media.... Tepco is the lowest of snakes. Hari Kari for the lot of em!!" – Comment on enenews, August 15, 2013, by "timemachine2020"

Fukushima lawsuit of 2012 comes as news to too much of the public

he story referred to in the comment above has had some coverage by Energy News, Tuner Radio Network, Stars and Stripes and a few others, but coverage, if any, by mainstream media is scant to none. All the same, it's a real story, with real villains (TEPCO, Japanese government, U.S. Navy for starters), and real victims (a growing number of American service personnel put in harm's way and abandoned by their government when things got tough).

The core of this story is the lawsuit filed December 21, 2012, by attorney Paul C. Garner of Brooks & Associates of Encinatas, California, on behalf of nine plaintiffs (including a one-year-old), all of whom "were among the members of the U.S. Navy crew and attached to the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), whose home port was San Diego, California, when they were exposed to radiation off the coast at Fukushima prefecture, Japan, whereat the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is located, on and after March 11, 2011, during the mission known as 'Operation Tomodachi.'" The complainant seeks a jury trial, but the case is still in the pre-trial stage. The plaintiffs are seeking $40 million each in damages as well as a fund of more than a billion dollars to be used for their future medical expenses.

The U.S.S. Reagan is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a crew of about 5,000 that arrived off the coast of Fukushima the day after the tsunami with other ships as part of Operation Tomodachi, or "friend" in Japanese.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake near Fukushima caused a tsunami that killed an estimated 19,000 people and swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In the aftermath of the tsunami, three of the six reactors at Fukushima melted down, releasing radiation into the air, ground, and water. The precise sequence of events remains unclear, but the Japanese government and TEPCO (the Tokyo Electric Power Company, a wholly owned public benefit subsidiary of the government of Japan) were not being fully forthcoming about the danger as the disaster developed.

Japanese officials apparently lied to everyone about the damage

Although the potential seriousness of the Fukushima accident was widely apparent, Japanese officials publicly and privately minimized the danger for as long as they could, lying to their own people and rescue personnel from other countries alike. At the time, the first meltdown was thought to have happened on March 12. But on December 12, 2013, Naoto Kan, the former prime minister who was in office at the time, told a meeting of the Japan Press Club that his government had known that "the first meltdown occurred five hours after the earthquake" which hit at 14:46 on March 11.

The U.S.S. Reagan and accompanying ships were coming into an environment where radiation levels in the air and water were far higher than the Navy was being told officially. That lying is at the heart of the lawsuit against TEPCO, which was exposing its own workers to even greater risks than U.S. Sailors. The lawsuit argues that TEPCO's lies led the U.S. Navy to sail unknowingly into intensely and dangerously radioactive waters.

True as that may be, it fails to explain why the Navy would be so trusting and negligent in the first place. The Reagan is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Its officers and crew are or should be more sensitive than most to radioactive risk under all conditions, but especially when approaching a damaged nuclear power plant, and operating downwind of Fukushima.

For days (it's not clear how many), U.S. sailors were going into the radioactive ocean to save people swept out to sea by the tsunami. Sailors were drinking and bathing in desalinated ocean water until someone figured out it was radioactive. Sailors washed planes and surfaces of the ship that were radioactive. How do the people in charge of the Reagan not know they're in a radioactive environment without being negligent?

U.S. Seventh Fleet Public Affairs issues incredible press release

On March 14, 2011, without explaining what woke them up to the danger, which they minimized anyway, Navy officials issued a press release that began:

"The U.S. 7th Fleet has temporarily repositioned its ships and aircraft away from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant after detecting low level contamination in the air and on its aircraft operating in the area. The source of this airborne radioactivity is a radioactive plume released from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant.

"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."

Why would anyone believe that, having failed to detect (they say) the radioactive plume, the Navy has any credible way of knowing what exposure any sailor may have received? The Navy also claimed the Reagan was 100 miles away from Fukushima "at the time," not specified. The Navy further claimed that only 17 crew members in three helicopter crews were exposed, that the "low level radioactivity was easily removed … by washing with soap and water," and "no further contamination was detected."

This impossible-to-believe narrative was then effectively contradicted by the next paragraph of the press release:

"As a precautionary measure, U.S.S. Ronald Reagan and other U.S. 7th Fleet ships conducting disaster response operations in the area have moved out of the downwind direction from the site to assess the situation and determine what appropriate mitigating actions are necessary."

If no further contamination was detected, then it should be relatively easy to determine what appropriate mitigation actions were necessary.

Navy "supports the troops," at least until they really need it

According to individual reports, the Navy passed out iodine pills to officers and pilots, but not to most of the crew. The Navy also required crew members, before they could go on shore leave later in Thailand, to sign papers stating that they were healthy and couldn't sue the Navy. Clearly that would be mitigating for the Navy, even if it meant abandoning people whose potential radiation injuries wouldn't be showing up for months or years.

That's exactly what happened to Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Hair, as reported in Stars and Stripes in July 2013. Hair is part of the lawsuit against TEPCO and, like the other plaintiffs, has classic symptoms of low level radiation poisoning. The article also minimizes the possible exposure on the Reagan, quoting a Navy spokesman who uses the exact same language as the 2011 press release to minimize Fukushima radiation levels.

According to Stars and Stripes, Hair was told that the Reagan was just 5-10 miles off the coast of Fukushima. The paper also reported that:

"Sailors were drinking desalinated seawater and bathing in it until the ship's leadership came over the public address system and told them to stop because it was contaminated, Hair said. They were told the ventilation system was contaminated, and he claims he was pressured into signing a form that said he had been given an iodine pill even though none had been provided. As a low-ranking sailor, he believed he had no choice.

"The Navy has acknowledged that the Reagan passed through a plume of radiation but declined to comment on the details in Hair's story."

Most of the sick sailors are in their early twenties

There's no apparent reason to doubt that there are sick sailors, not all of them part of the lawsuit, but all of them with a common source of exposure from Fukushima. Two other plaintiffs, Maurice Enis and his girlfriend, Jaime Plym, whose press conference on March 11, 2013, was part of a symposium at the New York Academy of Medicine dealing with the medical and ecological consequences of Fukushima, both served on the Reagan, as the Huffington Post reported:

"The couple had been looking forward to leaving the military and starting a family. Now, Enis said, they don't know if children will be an option due to health problems they've both developed since signing away government liability. They've both been honorably discharged from the military and don't know how they will pay for medical treatment. Plym has a new diagnosis of asthma and her menstrual cycle is severely out of whack. Enis has lumps on his jaw, between his eyes and on his thigh. He's also developed stomach ulcers and lung problems, and is losing weight and hair."

In all, the Pentagon sent some 70,000 American military personnel to serve in or near Japan in response to Fukushima during the period from March 12 to May 11, 2011. And in 2011, the Department of Defense set out to do the right thing for these men and women who may have been exposed to harmful levels of radiation. The Defense Department announced plans to establish the Operation Tomodachi Registry to help these people track their health histories, an initiative pushed by Independent senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. According to the Pentagon:

"The DOD may establish an environmental health surveillance registry when: 1) occupational and environmental health exposures could cause illness, or 2) when the exposure is not expected to cause illness, but individuals need access to exposure data. In either case, these registries will contain the names of all the individuals who were known or believed to have been exposed along with estimates of their exposure."

No radiation level is "safe," and internal radiation is less safe

Since the Pentagon admitted it was unprepared to deal with radiation risk when the Fukushima crisis began, the creation of a registry was something of an after-the-fact means of making up for that initial unpreparedness. By the end of July 2011, the Pentagon reported that it had "already done 'internal monitoring' of radiation levels inside the bodies of 7,700 personnel who worked in parts of the disaster zone closest to the damaged power plant, including those who flew over the disaster zone…."

But the same report went on to minimize the impact without addressing the timeframe in which the radiation was received: "The scans revealed that 98 percent of those personnel did not have elevated radiation inside their bodies…. among the 2 percent of service members (about 154 individuals) with elevated internal radiation levels the highest readings were about 25 millirems, equivalent to the dose that they would receive from 2 1/2 chest X-rays."

The lawsuit against TEPCO has 50-75 plaintiffs, as new people continue to join. If the 2 percent with elevated exposure levels found by the Pentagon is relevant, then there would be something like 1,400 potential plaintiffs among the 70,000 service members who were part of Operation Tomodachi. The lawsuit was filed in December 2012, before the radiation exposure registry was completed. In September 2012, the Pentagon put out another press release touting the usefulness of the registry even though it asserted that "no Defense Department personnel or their families were exposed to radiation causing adverse health conditions following the nuclear accident in Japan last year."

The Defense Department promised the registry would be finished in 2012. The suffering veterans filed their lawsuit December 21. Within a month, the Pentagon decided to drop the whole registry thing after an almost two-year effort, saying that it had decided that there was no serious contamination in the first place.

This decision means, as Roger Witherspoon wrote on his blog at the time, "there will be no way to determine if patterns of health problems emerge among the members of the Marines, Army, Air Force, Corps of Engineers, and Navy stationed at 63 installations in Japan with their families. In addition, it leaves thousands of sailors and Marines in the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group 7 on their own when it comes to determining if any of them are developing problems caused by radiation exposure."

So as far as the government is concerned, officially, it doesn't matter if Operation Tomodachi becomes, for some who served, a kamikaze mission.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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-51 # brycenuc 2013-12-18 11:51
A 2% increase in background radiation level is far, far, below any radiation level that has ever been considered harmful. The sailors aboard the U. S. S. Ronald Reagan must surely get more radiation than that in their normal duties. Their multi-million dollar lawsuit is a disgusting attempt to cash in on the world-wide ignorance of the true hazards (or lack thereof) of nuclear radiation. If the legal system has any scientific knowledge what-so-ever their lawsuit will fail, as well it should.
+46 # WBoardman 2013-12-18 12:19
brycenuc is correct that low levels of radiation are not immediately harmful.

brycnuc's reaction is an example of what is reportedly the kind of dismissive harassing the plaintiffs are getting from current service members, among others, and it is an ignorant position.

There is no "safe" level of radiation exposure.

The plaintiffs here may or may not have a winnable case.

But the possibility of significantly greater exposure than the average is a real possibility, based on the narrative so far. Then the question becomes how much exposure, to what kind of radiation, for how long, taken into the body, etc.

That the Navy was reportedly desalinating radioactive water for sailors to drink and bathe in raises the potential risk factors significantly.

Then there's the Navy's apparent double standard of treatment, minimization of risk, self-protective forced waivers, and suppression of evidence (especially the registry).

Since there was no apparent effort by anyone to measure the actual conditions in and around Fukushima with any scientific detachment, we may never have a reasonable understanding of the actual conditions for any particular person in any particular place, at any particular time.

All we know for sure is that officials lied and minimized.
+26 # Nuke Pro 2013-12-18 12:33
Well said.
+21 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-12-18 13:41
WBoardman, so tragic and then some, is what I've had firsthand experience with when vets who actually get acknowledged as being disabled get totally iinadequate treatment/surge ry, etc. from the VA. My fully disabled brother, for whom I have been a longtime caregiver and now am guardian, is one such vet.

As one of many VA docs have said, and other VA med. professionals have informed me: "This isn't practicing medicine." My heart goes out to the Navy folks who are showing signs of over exposure to radiation. Scarey plus.
+25 # intheEPZ 2013-12-18 14:13
A proper dose of Potassium iodide before exposure to radioactive iodine will block the radioisotope from taking up residence in the thyroid gland where it will continue to irradiate cells and damage thyroid and surrounding tissues for about 80 days (8 day half life, times about 10 until it has decayed to nearly nothing). It is outrageous that the Navy provided KI only to officers, and not to everyone on the carrier. If you are getting an internal (inhaled or ingested) dose of radioactive iodine from the radioactive plume from an exploded nuclear power plant (or 4), you are most certainly also getting an internal dose of Cesium 137(half life 30 years) and Strontium 90(half life 23 years), among other nasties. These take up residence in muscle tissue (including the heart) and bone respectively, and continue to irradiate surrounding tissue for a LONG time. There is NO radiation dose that does not cause harm (National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII report). Radioactive damage will likely show up as cancers, leukemia, heart damage or other problems many years hence. #brycenuc has drunk the NEI/NRC Kool-Aid. The Navy too, since they're only looking at short term exposure, and not considering that sailors ingested and or breathed radioactive substances while in the area. Internal doses should be multiplied by the time they reside in the body, therefore the dose is much higher and much more dangerous than the silly brycenuc implies above.
+14 # pbbrodie 2013-12-18 21:11
You, and all previous comments, have failed to mention that we have to take the Navy at its word that these exposure levels were as low as they state, which I do not believe for one moment.
+7 # intheEPZ 2013-12-19 13:20
Nor I. Well said. When radiation contamination is the issue, it is wise not to take any gov't claim at face value. They are all too beholden to the nuclear industry.
+2 # tedrey 2013-12-22 04:34
Back in the days of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, sailors wore tabs in their lapels which would change color if radiation exposure reached a certain level. Some Coast Guard men chortled to me about how they had gotten off swabbing duty by wearing their tabs in their shoes and hitting that level quicker. What they didn't realize was that the feet (where the blood also flows) was exactly where the tabs *should* be to access the true danger.
+25 # ikhadduri 2013-12-18 12:05
"it leaves thousands of sailors and Marines in the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group 7 on their own when it comes to determining if any of them are developing problems caused by radiation exposure."
May one remind those concerned, hypocritically, with the PEOPLE OF FALLUJAH,IRAQ when they were smothered with American Chemical weapons and Depleted Uranium American munitions?
Or is this yet another arrogant American Double Standard, we are only concerned about ourselves, not what we do to other people?
+18 # mscw42 2013-12-18 13:23
This appears to be a further step in arrogance of those in command. Not only aren't they concerned about those who aren't Americans, they aren't concerned about those who are "merely" enlisted Americans.
+26 # jwb110 2013-12-18 12:32
My father was in the Navy during WW2 and he said that it was the most chicken shit outfit he had ever worked for. When is the Navy going to actually look at its enlisted and mustered out men and women as though they were people? Where is the social contract that protects people who put their lives on the line? And why the hell was it kept a secret!?
I am hoping that there are class action suits against the Japanese Gov't for the damage they have done and denied.
+10 # Douglas Jack 2013-12-18 13:55
The problem starts with many decades of post WW2 occupation during which the USA & other occupying countries like Canada, Britain etc were in control of its political structures & imposing nuclear power on Japan against the world's largest ever nuclear power protests. Japan does have a responsibility but so do our multinational corporations who have been pulling the strings of power & setting up these nuclear power plant monsters in sensitive areas where they never should have been ( or anywhere).

Follow the ‘Money Trail’ Rothschild Conspiracy International Banking Cartel & The Federal Reserve.
+2 # RLF 2013-12-19 06:55
I know retired military in the 70's who were making more being retired than if they stayed in the military. People that VOLUNTEER for military service should have an understanding that they will not be taken care of for ever just because they mopped decks for 3 years. Now when something like this happens they could actually act honorably. This country doesn't even take responsibility for anything. My mom lived adjacent to the Trinity site (saw the flash when milking the cow) and has had three metastasized cancers including thyroid. Think she gets anything from the government for that? Hah! Only oil co.s and GE get money from the gov.
+18 # Douglas Jack 2013-12-18 12:41
You'll notice that Nuclear power proponents never look back at mistakes which place the whole of humankind into mass health consequence & vertebrate life in jeopardy. They will only look to their next crazy idea & want to evangelize it. They never look at the human systems through which their big ideas are to be or have been implemented. They know next to nothing about nature's & human abundant energy flows & show no signs of wanting to learn. Nuclear proponents are as close to the definition of psychotic as one can get. By harnessing Complementary Energy in the human built environment we have all the energy we need & as well clean up our mess.
+3 # RLF 2013-12-19 06:58
The people that design these things are incredibly arrogant like many doctors, and show little horse sense when it comes to looking for problems with their designs. They are the smartest people on the planet...why should they listen to the peons?
+23 # Vardoz 2013-12-18 13:12
The military in notorious for abusing soldiers. There is a big base in Japan too. They are being contaminated as well since the radiation has also spread across the US and EU too and we are still importing food from Japan to the US. You can find out more on as reported by Tom Hartmann. There is no scenario where soldiers and civilians have not been subjected abuse from above ground testing , uranium tipped bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the documentary IRAQ FOR SALE: THE WAR PROFITEERS soldiers testify to abuse by Haliburton. This is available on line. Also now many are homeless and as food stamps have been cut when our young men and women fought in our fabricated wars for profit and now 22 per day are committing suicide. Perhaps they were exposed to something that is causing this massive suicide rate. These wars were not paid for, & there are now tens of thousands of injured that are costing many billions after conducting the longest wars in history! This is all about profit & abuse at any cost to anything & everything & we are ALL at risk regardless. Vets and military families the middle class, education, working poor, homeless, vets are all part of the equation. We are all being abused and screwed and the military are at the top of the list of the worst offenders.
+17 # Glen 2013-12-18 14:20
Very good, Vardoz.
While reading your comments I was reminded of those on ships observing a major detonation of a nuclear weapon, and their exposure. How about Agent Orange? All that the military was exposed to in the Middle East, bunker busters come to mind immediately, which yes includes citizens there.

Even in WWII soldiers didn't have enough equipment or food. Consider what the military was exposed to in WWI, which has totally been swept under the rug.

And now, the U.S. government is abandoning all responsibility, as they always have, except that now it is worse. Much of what came about has been forgotten simply because there was no reporting and no serious assistance for veterans.
+6 # Nuke Pro 2013-12-18 13:41
NRC is asking for comments on "Waste Confidence" sheesh, what a setup.

Drop your comment to NRC, by December 20 deadline.
+6 # WBoardman 2013-12-18 13:45

Apparently the judge dismissed the lawsuit on November 26 on jurisdictional grounds --
(and I looked for the fall hearing result, finding nothing) --
as reported December 17 by Jeannette Steele of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

She reported that attorney Paul Garner plans to re-file the suit to avoid the jurisdictional issue.
+1 # JohnBoanerges 2013-12-21 14:55
Thanks. I had heard that but not confirmed. Will keep trying to stay up to date. I emailed this story last Monday to about 1,000 of my contacts.
+11 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-12-18 13:50
Another great plug for nuclear power, eh? Or, who cares or need care about the cannon-fodder?
+11 # tedrey 2013-12-18 15:27
The Navy has performed similar cover-ups before. An example:
+8 # Arden 2013-12-18 16:23
According to Ken Rohla who was interviewed by Dr. Rima on 12/8/13, over 800 workers at Fukushima have died, and there are 10 reactors affected in two different locations.
+4 # RLF 2013-12-19 07:01
The Japanese had an historical record of tsunamis this large and ignored it when placing their plants. Brilliant!
+4 # WBoardman 2013-12-19 11:59
As far as I know, the Fukushima plant comprises
a total of six reactors:
#1-2-3 all melted down and remain pretty much inaccessible.
#4 was empty for re-fueling, that's the fuel pool 100' in the air that they've started unloading.
#5-6 were more or less undamaged and have been shut down.

That's all I think I know.
+14 # JSRaleigh 2013-12-18 17:03
It's really no different than the way the U.S. Government treated the veterans of the atomic testing programs in Utah & Nevada during the 1950s.

Or how they treated the civilians who lived downwind.
-2 # JohnBoanerges 2013-12-21 14:50
How about the entire film crew of the John Wayne movie Genghis Kahn. The location, leased from the USG, was a former nuclear bomb (above ground, of course) test site. Nearly every person who spent as much as a week there died of cancer. Ho-hum says USG.
+3 # babaregi 2013-12-18 22:15
I know the bugle-boy sailor that was on that ship.

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