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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 July 30 - August 19  > Radioactive leak confirms our rejection of coexistence with nuclear-powered warships
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2008 July 30 - August 19 [US FORCES]

Radioactive leak confirms our rejection of coexistence with nuclear-powered warships

August 3, 2008
The nuclear-powered U.S. Navy submarine Houston may have leaked water with radioactivity during a port call in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, sending shock waves to other Japanese ports throughout the country that have allowed the entry of U.S. nuclear-powered warships.

The U.S. government that long boasted of no radioactive leaks having been reported for 50 years has admitted that a radioactive leak may have occurred. The Japanese government, which parrots the U.S. explanation insisting that nuclear-powered ships are safe, cannot protect the lives and health of the Japanese people. It should ask the U.S. government to investigate the cause of the accident and reject the entry of all nuclear-powered vessels into Japanese ports.

The myth that nuclear-powered ships are safe has been blown away

The leak was found on the Houston, after it entered a Hawaii port for routine maintenance on July 17. A sailor was showered with water that flowed out accidentally when the lid of the reactor came off, and a week later, radioactivity was detected from the water. The U.S. Navy has admitted that the submarines may have discharged water contaminated with radioactivity for several months.

After receiving the report about the accident from the United States, the Japanese Foreign Ministry announced that a trace amount of cooling water was found leaked out. However, the U.S. military authorities have avoided giving any details of the accident, including information about the type of radioactivity.

U.S. officials have said that the amount of radiation involved was very low. The serious problem is that radioactive water has been leaked over a period of several months. The Houston entered Sasebo Port twice this year, during March 27-April 2, and on April 6. Before coming to Sasebo, it had been at anchor off White Beach, a district of Okinawa’s Uruma City, which is occupied by U.S. forces. Although the Japanese investigators say no radioactivity was found, the U.S. government has responsibility to investigate and report findings to Japan as to whether there were radioactive leaks when it entered the ports or while it was at anchor, including the necessary data.

We must also take it seriously that the United States notified the Japanese Foreign Ministry of the accident on August 1, two weeks after the discovery of the accident. The Foreign Ministry made it known to the public only after the accident was reported in the mass media. These slow actions are inappropriate in dealing with such a critical event.

Japanese investigators have so far pointed out radioactive leakage cases on many occasions when U.S. nuclear-powered submarines entered Sasebo, Yokosuka and Okinawa. Nevertheless, insisting that there has been no radioactive leakage, the U.S. government has refused to give a scientific explanation or to provide relevant data on grounds that they are militarily sensitive matters. Thus, the United States has propagated the groundless view that U.S. nuclear-powered submarines are accident-free.

By admitting that there were radioactive leaks at Sasebo, the U.S. government has virtually acknowledged that what it says about “safety myths” is groundless. That means that ports that are visited by U.S. nuclear-powered ships are always exposed to the danger of accidents. This is why we are saying that it is necessary to review the Japanese policy of accepting U.S. nuclear-powered ships at Japanese ports.

No entry, no deployment

The U.S. and Japanese governments are emphasizing that only a tiny amount of radioactivity leaked in the recent accident simply because of their plan to deploy the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to Yokosuka in late September.

We must not forget that once a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is deployed at Yokosuka, it will stay there for about half a year. This dramatically increases the danger of possible nuclear accidents. Our struggle to block the deployment of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to Yokosuka is all the more important.
– Akahata, August 3, 2008
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