Radiation Forces U.S. 7th Fleet to Reposition Ships

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2011 — The U.S. 7th Fleet has tem­porar­i­ly repo­si­tioned its ships and air­craft away from Japan’s Fukushi­ma Dai-Ichi Nuclear Pow­er Plant after detect­ing low-lev­el con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in the air and on its air­craft oper­at­ing in the area.
The source of this air­borne radioac­tiv­i­ty is a radioac­tive plume released from the pow­er plant, offi­cials said.

In a state­ment announc­ing the deci­sion, offi­cials empha­sized that the max­i­mum poten­tial radi­a­tion dose received by any­one aboard a ship that passed through the area was less than the radi­a­tion expo­sure received from about a month of expo­sure to nat­ur­al back­ground radi­a­tion from sources such as rocks, soil and the sun.

The USS Ronald Rea­gan was oper­at­ing about 100 miles north­east of the pow­er plant at the time. Using sen­si­tive instru­ments, pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure­ments of three heli­copter air­crews return­ing to the ship after con­duct­ing dis­as­ter relief mis­sions near Sendai iden­ti­fied low lev­els of radioac­tiv­i­ty on 17 air crew mem­bers.

The low-lev­el radioac­tiv­i­ty was eas­i­ly removed from affect­ed per­son­nel by wash­ing with soap and water, offi­cials said, and no fur­ther con­t­a­m­i­na­tion was detect­ed after­ward.

But as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, offi­cials said, USS Ronald Rea­gan and oth­er U.S. 7th Fleet ships con­duct­ing dis­as­ter response oper­a­tions in the area have moved out of the down­wind direc­tion from the site to assess the sit­u­a­tion and deter­mine what appro­pri­ate mit­i­gat­ing actions are nec­es­sary.

“We remain com­mit­ted to our mis­sion of pro­vid­ing assis­tance to the peo­ple of Japan,” the 7th Fleet state­ment said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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