Sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan wash down the flight deck to remove potential radiation contamination. Photo: Reuters
smh.com.au | Mar 25, 2011
by Tony Capaccio
THE aircraft carrier USS George Washington was moved this week from its Japanese port to avoid a potentially costly and complex clean-up to remove traces of radiation, the US Navy revealed.
The carrier did not face an acute, near-term radiation threat that would have forced its departure from Yokosuka, about 280 kilometres south of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, said chief of naval operations Admiral Gary Roughead.
Rather, Admiral Roughead said, he wanted to move the carrier because even residual traces of radiation on a nuclear-powered warship, while not harmful from a health standpoint, could be mistaken as a sign of a shipboard nuclear leak requiring identification and clean-up.
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”When you think of an aircraft carrier – that has literally thousands of miles of ventilation ducting in it – then you’ve got a significant cleaning issue,” Admiral Roughead said.
”My view was ‘Let’s just get her out’, get her away from where she could pick up any sort of contamination so that that ship stays clean.”
The United States military has about 38,000 personnel currently based ashore in Japan and an additional 11,000 are based afloat in the region, according to US Forces Japan.