Sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan, which provided assistance after the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, have since experienced a variety of illnesses, which they say are due to radiation exposure. A number of sailors have filed a federal lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) alleging the plant operators withheld crucial information about nuclear contamination near the power plant, allowing rescuers to operate in dangerous waters.
More than four dozen U.S. Navy members who served aboard the Reagan and sister ship the USS Essex now trace illnesses including thyroid and testicular cancers, leukemia and brain tumors to the time spent aboard the ship, Fox News reports. The ship’s desalination system pulls in and treats seawater that is then used for drinking, cooking, and bathing. The lawsuit alleges that TEPCO delayed telling the Navy about the nuclear meltdown that sent large amounts of contaminated water into the sea and, ultimately, into the ship’s water system.
In the months following the rescue efforts, a number of those serving on the ship began to develop serious symptoms, including lumps on the skin, hemorrhaging, bronchitis, leukemia, and thyroid and testicular cancers. An attorney for the sailors said, “They did not go in prepared to deal with radiation containment.” Because TEPCO concealed the full extent of the damage to the plant, the rescuers rushed into “an unsafe area which was too close to the [Fukushima nuclear power plant] that had been damaged,” according to Fox News. “The officers and crew of the U.S.S. Reagan (CVN-76) and other vessels believed that it was safe to operate within the waters adjacent to the FNPP.” Former Prime Minister Naoto Jan recently said the first meltdown occurred five hours after the tsunami, not the next day as reported at the time.
The Department of Defense has declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, but told FoxNews.com that the Pentagon has been monitoring and collecting data on radiation exposure in the region.