Navy sailors that were on a humanitarian mission in Japan which provided aid proceeding the March 11, 2011 tsunami, were poisoned by the nuclear fallout contained in the waters while aboard the aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan. The storm blew toward them from Fukushima, whose nuclear power plant was melting down after an earthquake caused a tsunami that flooded the plant and ultimately took the lives of 19,000. When the storm’s path crossed that of the ship, crew member Lindsay Cooper “felt this warm gust of air, and suddenly it was snowing.”
The sailors on board weren’t aware that the snow falling down on them was a mixture of cold ocean air and radioactive steam, which was emitted from the nuclear reactor that melted down after power failures caused by the tsunami caused cooling equipment to fail. Cooper describes the snow as having a metallic taste and recalls that both she and her fellow sailors made jokes about it. She remembers saying, “Hey, it’s radioactive snow!” Cooper shot videos and took photos of the snow.
The moment of levity on board the ship that day has become a lifetime of misery for Cooper and many of her fellow Navy sailors. Sailors who were on board the USS Ronald Reagan and her sister ship, the USS Essex, as well as 5,000 crew members from other humanitarian ships in the area find that three years later, they are suffering various diseases. The diseases encompass issues of the thyroid, cancer and other traumatic health ailments, including serious vaginal bleeding.
In addition to being exposed to radiation from the falling snow, the ships themselves were floating in radioactive sea waters, which was pumped into the ship, treated for saline and then piped throughout to supply faucets, showerheads and etc. After realizing that the ship was highly contaminated, the crew attempted to change its position, but by that time the radiation was so widespread in the area that it made little difference.
According to Cooper, the Navy sailors charged with giving aid to Japan after the tsunami were stranded aboard the ship for two and a half months while continuing to be poisoned by nuclear fallout. They were denied entry by Japan, Korea and Guam before Thailand allowed them to dock.
The ship was tested for radiation by Senior Chief Michael Sebourn, an officer assigned to radiation decontamination. He found levels to be extraordinarily high, measuring a value 300 times higher than a level considered safe.
Fifty-one stricken service members and their families, including a one-year-old child, are represented by attorney Paul Garner in a case against the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, the Tokyo Electric Power Company. According to Garner, more than half of the sailors who spent four days on the Fukushima coast have been diagnosed with cancer. As additional sailors step forward with their claims, Garner’s lawsuit has grown to include more than 70.
Another suit representing sailors diagnosed with cancer is set to be filed by San Francisco lawyer, Charles Bonner. His suit initially was filed on behalf of 12 sailors, but since then the number of people included in the suit has increased by more than four times the initial number.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Jan publicly admitted on Dec. 12 that although the meltdown had initially been reported as occurring the day after the tsunami, it actually happened just five hours later, increasing the amount of time the Navy sailors, who were there only to give aid to Japan after the tsunami’s devastation, were exposed to the deadly poison from the nuclear fallout.
By Jennifer Pfalz