The Department of Defense has decided to walk away from an unprecedented medical registry of nearly 70,000 American service members, civilian workers, and their families caught in the radioactive clouds blowing from the destroyed nuclear power plants at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan.
The decision to cease updating the registry means 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 USS 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.
The strike group was detoured from its South Pacific duties and brought to Fukushima for Operation Tomodachi, using the Japanese word for “friend.” It was an 80-day humanitarian aid and rescue mission in the wake of the earthquake and massive tsunami that decimated the northern coastline and killed more than 20,000 people. The rescue operation was requested by the Japanese Government and coordinated by the US State Department, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Departments of Defense and Energy. In addition to the USS Ronald Reagan with its crew of 5,500, the Strike Group included four destroyers – The Preble, McCampbell, Curtis Wilbur, and McCain – the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, and several support ships (http://bit.ly/11bfTqS ).
It was the participants in Operation Tomodachi – land based truck drivers and helicopter crews, and carrier based aircraft and landing craft – who were repeatedly trying to guess where the radioactive clouds were blowing and steer paths out of the way. It was unsuccessful on more than one occasion, according to Defense Department records and participants, resulting in efforts to decontaminate ships travelling through contaminated waters and cleansing helicopters only to send them right back into radioactive clouds.
Continue reading at Fukushima Rescue Mission Lasting Legacy: Radioactive Contamination of Americans
- Part 2:Leaving the Navy, Living with Doubt profiles three sailors who sought careers in the Navy and were contaminated at Fukushima. They have now left the Navy, and wonder what the future holds (will be posted)