Support Sailors Affected by Nuclear Fallout

Target: United States Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert

Goal: Demand that the Navy acknowledge and treat sailors’ exposure to dangerous levels of radiation

Within hours of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan, reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant were in meltdown and releasing dangerous levels of radiation. Ships from the United States Navy, including the USS Ronald Reagan, responded quickly to the humanitarian crisis. According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 70 sailors, this radiation exposure has caused considerable suffering; yet the Navy refuses to monitor the health of affected personnel, or to admit that exposure put anyone in danger.

While anchored just offshore, people on board the USS Ronald Reagan were exposed to a highly radioactive mix of ash and snow. Several sailors jumped in the ocean near the nuclear plant to help survivors. And all water on board–used for cooking, bathing and drinking–was pulled straight from the already-contaminated ocean. Personnel can’t sue the military for failing to protect them, and are instead suing the company that operates the Fukushima plant and failed to promptly notify the public of the meltdown.

None the less, the Navy’s lack of support for its personnel is deeply disturbing. A spokesman for the Navy maintains that “the worst-case radiation exposure for a crew member on USS Ronald Reagan is less than 25 percent of the annual radiation exposure to a member of the U.S. public from natural sources.” Aside from being misleading, this comes as no consolation for the dozens of sailors now dealing with thyroid cancer, leukemia, and other illnesses associated with radiation exposure. Demand that the Navy acknowledge the danger military personnel were exposed to at Fukushima, and accept full responsibility for monitoring and treating the health conditions of those affected.


Dear Admiral Greenert,

Dozens of members of the US military are facing debilitating health problems as a direct result of their exposure to nuclear radiation from Fukushima, according to a recent lawsuit filed on the sailors’ behalf. Instead of acknowledging the risks that sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan were exposed to, the Navy denies that anyone was endangered by radiation. The Navy refuses to monitor the health of these sailors, and denies that the leukemia, thyroid cancer and other illnesses reported can be linked to their time off the shores of Fukushima in the days following the plant’s initial meltdown.

Conclusively proving the source of radiation, and therefore the cause of resulting illnesses, can be nearly impossible. But the evidence that does exist demands that the Navy respond to personnel health concerns. Were sailors exposed to high levels of radiation when they responding to the disaster? Clearly, yes. Are high levels of this sort of radiation known to be extremely dangerous to human health? Again, yes. How can the military’s denial be justified, in light of this? I must insist that the Navy acknowledge the risks sailors endured near Fukushima, begin systematically monitoring the health of those exposed, and accept full responsibility for treating the resulting health conditions. To do any less represents a great injustice, and a moral failure on the part of the United States military.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: M. Jeremie Yoder via Wikimedia

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