The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was deployed to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The aircraft carrier, stationed near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, provided several months of aid to the area. The service members were unknowingly exposed to radiation from seawater that went through a desalination process and was used for drinking, cooking, and bathing. A total of 51 US Navy personnel who served aboard the USS Ronald Reagan and sister ship the USS Essex now trace illnesses including thyroid and testicular cancers, leukemia and brain tumors to the time spent aboard. Among those victims are Quartermaster Maurice Enis and his fiancé, Quartermaster, Jamie Plym.
Some months after the deployment, while still serving aboard the carrier, Enis noticed that strange lumps had appeared all over his body. After an exam and tests, he was diagnosed with radiation poisoning. His fiancé also developed symptoms of radiation poisoning, including hemorrhaging and chronic bronchitis. “I get so angry,” Plym told Fox New. He added, “They said as long as the plume was avoided we would be fine. But we knew then that something was going to happen. Common sense tells you that the wind would blow it everywhere. You don’t need to be a nuclear scientist to figure that out.”
More than a year ago, San Francisco attorney Charles Bonner filed a federal suit in the Southern District of California; he is representing the allegedly cancer-stricken sailors. He noted that since then, the number of service members who claim radiation-related illnesses has more than quadrupled. The lawsuit is not against the Navy because of the belief that Navy personnel acted in good faith; rather, the lawsuit is aimed at the power plant operators who sat on the meltdown information during the crucial hours following the disaster. Bonner noted that Tokyo Electric Power Company, Incorporated (TEPCO) followed a policy that caused rescuers, including the plaintiffs, to rush into an unsafe area which was too close to the power plant that had been damaged by the earthquake. He explained that the officers and crew of the USS Ronald Reagan and other vessels believed that it was safe to operate within the waters adjacent to the Fukushima power plant. Because TEPCO assured the Navy that it was safe to be in the area, the Navy did not do its own testing. Nathan Piekutoski, who served aboard the USS Essex told Fox News that he and his fellow sailors trusted the TEPCO officials. He said, “They did say it was safe at the time. We had to take their word for it.” After the incident, Piekutowski developed leukemia, which is currently in remission. He has been told that he may need to undergo a bone marrow transplant. He said, “Within a few months I started getting all these weird symptoms. Night sweats. Not sleeping. I started losing a lot of weight.
TEPCO officials did not respond to requests from Fox New for comment. However, a recent admission before members of the Japanese press on December 12, former Prime Minister Naoto Jan said the first meltdown occurred five hours after the tsunami, not the next day as reported at the time. Bonner claims that the statement means that the Japanese government was aware of the radiation leakage. He said, “They knew there was an active meltdown and they deliberately hid it from the public as well as the Navy. Those sailors went in there totally unaware and they were contaminated as a result.”