Contamination scare for N.A.S. Lemoore sailors
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An aircraft carrier with Central Valley sailors on board is dealing with a contamination scare. The U.S.S. Ronald Reagan is off of Japan's coast with 5,000 sailors onboard. Monday, the U.S. Navy announced 17 crewmembers had been exposed to radiation. Though 600 sailors onboard are based at N.A.S. Lemoore, officials don't believe any of those affected are Lemoore based.
U.S. Navy photos show crews from the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan assisting in relief efforts, delivering much needed humanitarian supplies to the devastated country. But the effort took a frightening turn when radioactive particles were discovered after helicopters landed back on the ship. The Navy said the helicopters never got closer than 60 miles from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. "Never in the course of any of this did they feel any effects. In fact, the first indications that we had that they had any type of contamination was the sensors. It's not anything they noticed on the ship," said Captain Mark Black with the Strike Fighter Wing Pacific Fleet.
Word of the contamination spread quickly. Hundreds of family members logged on to Facebook, concerned. That's where the ship's commanding officer posted a letter, trying to reassure everyone the exposure was minimal, comparing it to what a person would experience in one month period, under normal circumstances. He also said quote, "I want to take this opportunity to personally assure you that first and foremost, all personnel aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan are safe and healthy."
But even as the ship's leader posted the online reassurance, uncertainty lingers in Japan. There, the nuclear crisis is inching closer to a catastrophe. "If the wind is blowing out to the ocean, as it usually does, then most of the contamination goes out there. If the wind shifts south, well then, some of the most heavily populated areas of Japan are at risk, including Tokyo itself," said nuclear expert Joe Cirincione.
More risks, for a country already devastated by death and destruction. For now, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan is still assisting in aid efforts. As a precaution, it has repositioned itself so it's no longer downwind from Fukashima Dai-ichi.
The Navy said the contamination was mostly on the helicopter crew members' clothing. After washing with soap and water, they could find no other evidence of contamination. Six others were also decontaminated, though the circumstances of their exposure are unclear.
The commanding officer of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan is working to assure family members and loved ones after 17-people on the ship were exposed to radiation while operating near a radioactive plume at one of Japan's nuclear power plants.
The aircraft carrier was deployed on Friday to the northeast coast of Japan with hundreds of sailors and pilots from the Lemoore Naval Air Station on board.
While it's not known exactly who was exposed, four Sea Hawk helicopters launched from the U.S.S. Reagan Sunday. The sailors on board were delivering relief supplies near one of the hardest hit cities of Sendai, Japan. They also received help from Japanese relief workers who loaded supplies aboard a Japanese oiler.
In a letter posted on Facebook Monday, the commanding officer of the Reagan said: "I want to take this opportunity to personally assure you that first and foremost all personal aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan are safe and healthy."
Later in the post he said, "To put this in perspective, the maximum radiation dose received was equal to the amount one would receive in one month from sources such as rocks, soil and the sun."
united states navy, lemoore naval air station, nuclear, tsunami, earthquake, japan, national/world, amanda perez
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