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Japan The Military Transportation United States Technology

16 US Ships That Aided In Operation Tomodachi Still Contaminated With Radiation (stripes.com) 170

mdsolar writes: Sixteen U.S. ships that participated in relief efforts after Japan's nuclear disaster five years ago remain contaminated with low levels of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, top Navy officials told Stars and Stripes. In all, 25 ships took part in Operation Tomadachi, the name given for the U.S. humanitarian aid operations after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. The tsunami, whose waves reached runup heights of 130 feet, crippled the Fukushima plant, causing a nuclear meltdown. In the years since the crisis, the ships have undergone cleanup efforts, the Navy said, and 13 Navy and three Military Sealift Command vessels still have some signs of contamination, mostly to ventilation systems, main engines and generators. "The low levels of radioactivity that remain are in normally inaccessible areas that are controlled in accordance with stringent procedures," the Navy said in an email to Stars and Stripes. "Work in these areas occurs mainly during major maintenance availabilities and requires workers to follow strict safety procedures."
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16 US Ships That Aided In Operation Tomodachi Still Contaminated With Radiation

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  • Half a life time of radioactive material is a bazillion times your life time.

    • Re:Half a life time (Score:5, Informative)

      by mcswell ( 1102107 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:08PM (#51697823)

      If you mean "half life", then it all depends. Half life of U-238 is on the order of 4 billion years; C-14, 5730 years; I guess I won't live that long. But half life of Pb-211 is just over half an hour. I'd like to think I have at least that long to live...

      Of course, maybe your sig line is for real.

      • Well its more than that too isn't.

        The longer the half life of something, the less dangerous it is from a radiation perspective. U-238 isn't dangerous from a radiological perspective, its just a nasty chemical properties if you ingest it, nothing to do with radiation.

        C-14, which is much more radiologically dangerous than U-238 ... isn't dangerous at all.

        Pb-211 decays so quickly that as long as put it in a room by itself for a couple days, it won't be an issue either. The products that it breaks down into w

    • by thesupraman ( 179040 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:19PM (#51697859)

      Sigh, do we REALLY need to keep seeing this halflife BS?

      Halflife is basically inversely proportional to amount of emitted radiation.
      In other worse, the nasty atoms have short halflives, the not so nasty ones longer, and the quite safe ones very long.

      THAT, folks, is why Nagasaki and Hiroshima are thriving cities with actually lower than average cancer rates.

      • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:27PM (#51697897)
        At least until Half Life 3 comes out, yes.
      • Re:Half a life time (Score:4, Informative)

        by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @11:34AM (#51700481) Homepage Journal

        Well, it's not so simple as that. What you're really interested in is the interaction of radioactive materials with a complex biological entity -- your body. The rate and type of decay is only one parameter in that interaction; the chemistry and physical form also matter, along with the chemistry and stability of the daughter products.

        For example strontium is in the same periodic table column as calcium -- which obviously is a major component of our bodies. Therefore strontium is digested and metabolized the same way calcium is. This make Strontium-90 a much higher concern than other isotopes with similar half lives (roughly 29 years). An intact block of metallic strontium is moderately hazardous. An aerosol suspension of colloidal Sr-90 particles is extremely hazardous.

        The Radium 226 in old watch pigments has a half-life of 1600 years, and is perfectly safe to wear inside a sealed case on your wrist. But you don't want to ingest [wikipedia.org] it. It's probably best to avoid working on old radium watches because the pigment breaks down into a very fine powder. Would I panic if I had a single exposure to an opened radium watch? No. I just wouldn't make a habit of it.

        The "duck-and-cover" era advice about avoiding atomic fallout tries to balance survival priorities against each other. You're supposed to stay in your shelter for several weeks, which allows the levels of the most radioactive isotopes to fall. But the reason you come out after several weeks is not that it's perfectly safe to do so; it's that you can't live for years or even decades in a shelter. So the compromise is to stay in the shelter long only enough to avoid dying quickly of acute radiation sickness. After two or three weeks the levels of highly radioactive Sr-91 and Sr-92 are negligible; the levels of Sr-90 are hazardous and will remain so for decades.

        Depending on the degree, form, and nature of the contamination of these ships, it could prove a serious handicap to their ongoing operation. Not because the sailors will come down with acute radiation sickness, but because of the laborious precautions needed to avoid chronically exposing sailors. TFA doesn't say much about specifics, but I do know Fukushima released a great deal of Cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years and is in the same periodic table column as potassium, which is obviously biologically very active. It's also readily water soluble and can enter the body that way. Less Sr-90 was released, but depending on exactly where and when the ships were contaminated that could also pose an operational handicap because calcium remains in the body much longer than potassium.

        As for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it's important to realize that they were high altitude detonations. That both reduced the levels of contamination and spread the contamination widely throughout the region. It'd serve little purpose to abandon the city centers. Compared to, say, Chernobyl with its burning radioactive graphite, the detonations were relatively clean radiological disasters.

    • by jensend ( 71114 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:57PM (#51698005)

      According to some physicists, one material commonly found not only in nuclear waste but also in the byproducts of many industrial chemical processes is radioactive and has a lifetime of 10^32 years!!! [wikipedia.org] Just think what kind of lasting problems that creates!

      Not only should we shut down those nuclear and chemical processes, we should obviously jettison all these troublesome 'protons' into space so future generations don't have to deal with them!!!!1111

      • Very very mild problems.

        Btw if you can use a chemical process to create radioactive isotopes I think you've just gotten a Nobel prize!

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Aighearach ( 97333 )

          Physics and chemistry were unified by quantum electrodynamics.

          You can't give out that nobel, they gave it to Feynman and 2 other guys.

  • by thesupraman ( 179040 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:17PM (#51697853)

    Which basically makes it clear that there IS NO ISSUE.

    A few quotes for those who cannot bother reading the article:

    'The low levels of radioactivity that remain are in normally inaccessible areas that are controlled in accordance with stringent procedures'
    'The radioactive contamination found on the ships involved in Operation Tomodachi is at such low levels that it does not pose a health concern to the crews, their families, or maintenance personnel'
    ' the Reagan’s ventilation system was contaminated with 0.01 millirems of radiation per hour, according to the Navy. Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines advise no more than 2 millirems of radiation in one hour in any unrestricted area'
    '“Personnel working on potentially contaminated systems were monitored with sensitive dosimeters, and no abnormal radiation exposures were identified'
    'Of the 1,360 individuals aboard the Reagan who were monitored by the Navy following the incident, more than 96 percent were found not to have detectable internal contamination, the Navy said. The highest measured dose was less than 10 percent of the average annual exposure to someone living in the United States'

    And the whole article wraps up, after showing quite clearly that there is NO ISSUE, by pointing out that a bunch of money-grabbing US navy staff are trying to push a baseless lawsuit for such things as 'genetic immune system diseases, headaches, difficulty concentrating, thyroid problems, bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness in sides of the body accompanied by the shrinking of muscle mass, memory loss, leukemia, testicular cancer, problems with vision, high-pitch ringing in the ears and anxiety', from doses that are fractions of quite normal background exposure.In other worse for anything they could dream of that has happened since then.
    Their may reasoning seems to be 'Well, the Navy cleaned the decks after, it must have been dangerous!', so they appear to be suing on the basis that due care was taken!

    The real news here is how ridiculously out of perspective many people are about radiation risks.

    Lets hope none of those sailors like bananas! they better sue Ecuador!

    • They spew whatever crap they believe supports their cause. They are not looking for information to form a conclusion, they have a conclusion and go trying to find things to support it. In the event things don't support it, they'll either ignore it, shout it down or, as in this case, try to rebrand it as supporting their cause.

      He's no different from creationists: It's not about facts, not about science, it is about pushing an ideology. He is convinced he's right, so is unwilling to investigate his own belief

    • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:42PM (#51697959)

      I don't know why mdsolar has such and axe to grind about nuclear. He seems to have an amazing strike rate though of posting scare articles to slashdot. I could kinda understand, given his username, if he was anti everything bar solar, but he really really seems to hate nuclear.

      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        It is called have 30 other accounts and vote your own articles up in the firehouse.
      • Only about 20% of my submissions get posted. Of those pending, three have nothing to do with nuclear power and one of the other four is good news. In the nuclear industry, good news is rare.
        • In the nuclear industry, good news is rare.

          No news is good news, and that's almost every day for the safest form of large-scale power!

          • No news is good news, and that's almost every day for the safest form of large-scale power!

            Yep, 10% of the world's power is produced using nuclear and you just don't hear about it that much.

            Here we're talking about a minor problem from a 5 year old accident that was caused by gross human stupidity that could have been avoided if management had a clue.

            The reality is that most nuclear power is very safe. Here in Texas we have multiple reactors that have been humming along for decades producing crazy amounts of power without a fuss.

            • Gross human stupidity and one of the greatest natural disasters ever, combined.
              • Gross human stupidity and one of the greatest natural disasters ever, combined.

                No, because other reactors were fine. Had management done the suggested upgrades as the other reactors had done, nothing would have happened.

                This whole thing shouldn't have happened, it was the operator being stupid and cheap.

                A bigger wall, the generators on the roof instead of the ground floor, more batteries, not SCRAMing the reactors, etc.

                Any one of those things would have made this a complete non-event.

                • by khallow ( 566160 )

                  No, because other reactors were fine. Had management done the suggested upgrades as the other reactors had done, nothing would have happened.

                  When were those suggested upgrades suggested again? A lot of these issues can be settled with a timeline and the realization that the plant was originally scheduled to start permanently shutting down reactors in March, 2011, the very month the earthquake hit.

                  This whole thing shouldn't have happened, it was the operator being stupid and cheap.

                  A bigger wall, the generators on the roof instead of the ground floor, more batteries, not SCRAMing the reactors, etc.

                  Hindsight. Which of these things would we have known was a problem before? And SCRAMing the reactors was a good move.

                  • the realization that the plant was originally scheduled to start permanently shutting down reactors in March, 2011, the very month the earthquake hit.

                    Probably the most important and overlooked bit of the whole story.

                    • Well if we'd shut down the 60's and 70's era reactors and build new modern designs, this whole thing would be different, now wouldn't it?

                      But sadly, the "oh my god the nuclears" idiots just won't let that happen.

                      So here we are. Burning a crap ton of coal, oil, and natural gas, when we could be running on modern reactors that have fixed these old problems.

                  • Hindsight. Which of these things would we have known was a problem before? And SCRAMing the reactors was a good move.

                    No, it was a terrible move, but it was in the rule book so they did it.

                    Had they not shut down the reactors, they wouldn't have had any problems. They had their own power source and shut it down. They would never have needed the diesel power at all, they had nuclear reactors!

                    None of the water or flooding causing any problem with the reactors themselves, it was all the backup power sources.

                    The known problem was having the backup power at too low an elevation so it could be flooded, it should have been mount

                    • by khallow ( 566160 )

                      Had they not shut down the reactors, they wouldn't have had any problems. They had their own power source and shut it down. They would never have needed the diesel power at all, they had nuclear reactors!

                      Unless there's something wrong with the reactors coming from the magnitude 9 earthquake or tsunami. One important aspect is that you don't want reactors jammed in criticality when they start to melt down. That's a lot more heat to dissipate. Full power was something like a factor of seven more than when they were scrammed.

        • by phayes ( 202222 )

          Anyone displaying the intellectual dishonesty you have, spamming us with summaries that are flat out contradicted by TFA itself shouldn't have any of his submissions accepted.

          • I almost always quote articles directly since slashdot spelling nazis are so vicious. The articles generally have editors who check for that. Slashdot editors don't though they occasionally juice things up by leaving out some balancing text I've noticed.
        • good news is rare.

          Apart from every single day when it's not killing people to satisfy your energy needs. It is, after all, the safest form of power by a long way as measures in deaths per TWh. And yes that includes solar.

          • Deaths from nuclear accidents don't seem to be included in those calculations while deaths from damage breaks for dams that had no hydro are, and from dams that were primary flood control and only secondary for power generation. Seems like the nuclear industry is only good for lying with statistics.
        • In the nuclear industry, good news is rare.

          Really? Fewest fatalities and injuries per MWHr of any type of power generation in the USA is a bad thing?

          Hell, if you include installation/building of power plants statistics, nuclear is safer than solar (people fall off roofs installing solar systems pretty regularly).

          For the most part, nuclear power is (if you'll pardon the expression) safer than houses. And clean.

          And don't get me started on how much cleaner it would be if reprocessing spent fuel rods were

    • by djl4570 ( 801529 )
      .01 millirems is 1 BED (Banana Equivalent Dose) The amount of radiation from the potassium-40 in one banana. https://xkcd.com/radiation/ [xkcd.com] is a handy chart that provides a scale of radiation. There's a good entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] (It uses Randall's chart)
    • Specifically:

      1) Allowable dosage for a Navy nuclear plant worker (not the guys in the ship, but the guys who actually work in the nuclear plants on the ship) is 500 mRem per year. The dosage they could pick up if they were working in the contaminated areas 24/7 is The Navy's allowable dosage is 1/10 the allowable dosage for civilian nuclear plant workers.

      So, worst case, if someone were to spend his entire Navy career (to include eating and sleeping in the contaminated piping) in the contaminated areas,

      • Argh! Preview is your friend!

        And LT signs screw up your message.

        "24/7 is The" should include "less than 90 mRem per year" between "is" and "The". Plus other verbiage in "2." that isn't all that important to the message.

        It's early. I should still be in bed....

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        It should be noted that 600 Rem in a short period is the point where you have a significant chance of dying

        I would advise against betting your life on that as a cutoff point. The human LD50 for acute whole-body radiation exposure without medical intervention is about 350 rad. There will be cases of death for "only" 200-300 rad. A level of 600 rad is essentially LD100.

        That's certainly what the Washington State Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health, Office of Radiation Protection [wa.gov] believes, an

  • The headline for this story is very misleading. It should be "Another pointless anti-cheap-power article, brought to you by a paid shill for the expensive-power industry."

    From an article written by the same author in 2014: "Woodson said the rate of cancer in Reagan sailors was actually nearly 50 percent lower than in the control population."

    Know anyone who would pay for a 50% reduction in cancer risk? They should bottle that contamination, it is apparently magically lucky. Either that or hormesis.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      "Know anyone who would pay for a 50% reduction in cancer risk? They should bottle that contamination"

      So, homeopathic radiation? They'll make a fortune.
      • Or, you could require recruits to pass a physical exam and the discharge sailors that get sick, leaving a healthier group than the general population. Not exactly magic.
        • by jafiwam ( 310805 )

          Or, you could require recruits to pass a physical exam and the discharge sailors that get sick, leaving a healthier group than the general population. Not exactly magic.

          Fuck you, you stupid ignorant hippy maggot.

  • by djbckr ( 673156 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:49PM (#51697985)
    mdsolar has a very anti-nuclear agenda and will post all kinds of non-issue stories with "the sky is falling" headlines. Slashdot, please do something and get rid of this one.
    • mdsolar has a very anti-nuclear agenda and will post all kinds of non-issue stories with "the sky is falling" headlines. Slashdot, please do something and get rid of this one.

      Adding an adblock rule

      slashdot.org##ARTICLE > DIV > DIV > A[href="/~mdsolar"]+i

      will not get rid of him completely, but will make it much more obvious.

      I'm a noob at element hiding, can anyone tell me if the above can be improved?

    • mdsolar has a very anti-nuclear agenda and will post all kinds of non-issue stories with "the sky is falling" headlines. Slashdot, please do something and get rid of this one.

      mdsolar may have issues, but he's great clickbait- hence why slashdot keeps him around.

  • They keep water out of the engine. I wonder if it would help to filter air intakes on ships in this kind of situation which might also arise during hostilities?
  • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@earth[ ]k.net ['lin' in gap]> on Tuesday March 15, 2016 @12:19AM (#51698083)

    Life in the military is dangerous. These sailors volunteered knowing, or should have known, that they'd be asked to do things that might very well shorten their lifespan. They might be asked to do things that result in what's left of them being mailed home to their family in a shoebox. In return for their service they get things like their education paid for, real world work experience, and preferential hiring.

    I served in the US Army, was injured in training, now I'm in college part time while working part time. A job I got in part because I showed I was someone to the trusted with sensitive information and around dangerous people & items, because the Army does not take people that cannot be trusted. My education is paid for by the GI Bill. I also get my medical care paid for and a few bucks every month for my screwed up feet and knees.

    These sailors served on a nuclear powered ship, it would not be inconceivable that they'd be exposed to radiation while on that vessel. Granted, and fortunately, the radiation did not come from the ship's power plant. These sailors were undoubtedly trained in the handling of radioactive material and in the methods to protect themselves from it.

    It used to be that if you served in the US Navy you were almost certain to have damaged hearing. I know a few old sailors that can't hear so well. It was common for such people to get disability pay for this but no more. Why is that? Because the US DOD figured out that they could give their sailors, and all that serve, training in how to protect their ears and the gear to save their hearing. If they end up deaf then it's on them now. I believe that the same should apply here. They were trained, provided protective gear, and as far as I can tell were never asked to do anything out of the ordinary. If they end up sick from radiation then I say it's on them unless they can prove something extraordinary. Also, by extraordinary I mean that a fraction of those 5000 sailors would be eligible for compensation, not the entire crew.

    I recall hearing of a Navy helicopter that got caught in an unexpected radioactive plume. Of the half dozen or so on that craft one came back with what might be considered a dangerous radioactive dose because that sailor was sitting by the opened side door. Upon return to the ship that sailor was showered, got a fresh uniform, and was given on ship duty for the remainder of the cruise, which I was told was the best thing to do because the shower and new uniform removed anything radioactive that the sailor would have been exposed to. The change in duty was merely out of an abundance of caution. That's third hand information so I have no means to verify the accuracy but if true then we have one, perhaps a handful more in a similar situation, that might have a case for getting an unsafe dose of radiation.

    A common claim is, "I didn't sign up for this." Well, I believe you did.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You know for someone who was injured in training you have a lotta "I got mine" attitude towards those who if they are injured were injured actually in the line of duty.

      And before you get all high and mighty on me here. Know that I am also a disabled veteran. I say let the fucking doctors sort them out, and keep your skepticism to yourself. No one has questioned you on the merits of your injury, you are in no position to question others. Remember the army values here. Loyalty, you are sorely lacking in l

      • "You know for someone who was injured in training you have a lotta "I got mine" attitude towards those who if they are injured were injured actually in the line of duty."

        Yep, I got mine and so did they. Everyone that signed up got the same deal. They signed up knowing they'd be put at risk. When they leave they will be taken care of, just like I am now.

        I have to wonder who is making these claims since, as you point out, the military instills the virtues of honor and loyalty. Are the sailors claiming har

        • I only hoped to put this in the perspective of someone that did sign on that line.

          The problem is, your perspective is irrelevant because you have no experience and less knowledge of the issue - and your attitude toward your brothers ("eff 'em they signed up for this") repugnant.

      • Yes, I am doubly replying here. I do so because as I read further down in the comments I see these sailors were exposed to one BED, that's a single banana equivalent dose. These sailors were not injured in any meaningful way. The threat this contamination posed to them is statistically insignificant.

        I do not question their honor, I question how well they comprehend the real threat that they were exposed to. It seems to me that the claims are based on ignorance of how much radiation they were exposed to

    • because the Army does not take people that cannot be trusted.

      That's really one of the most ridiculous absolutes I've ever heard.

      The army takes lots of people who can't be trusted to do a bunch of things and trains them to do a bunch of other things and to work together. At the end of the day they can usually be trusted to do those things.

      The US armed forces provide some of the most effective humanitarian relief in the world. If they expose themselves to dangers from their service--whether gunshot or a cancer--then the cost of their healthcare for that danger is par

    • It used to be that if you served in the US Navy you were almost certain to have damaged hearing. I know a few old sailors that can't hear so well. It was common for such people to get disability pay for this but no more.

      Ha, ha. It is to laugh. I served on the Gun Line back in '72, with our 5"/54 doing shore bombardment during the Easter Offensive. Yes, we had hearing protection when we were topside, but those of us in the Forward Berthing Compartment didn't have any when we were asleep. One morning I
    • These sailors served on a nuclear powered ship, it would not be inconceivable that they'd be exposed to radiation while on that vessel. Granted, and fortunately, the radiation did not come from the ship's power plant.

      Well, since you served in the Army (and I served in the Navy on a nuclear powered vessel, but not in the engineering department) - let me clear up a few things you are completely wrong about. If you aren't in the engineering divisions that work in and around the reactor, it's nearly completely

  • So the USS Ronald Reagan has a measurable amount of radiation in it's ventilation systems. What also has a measurable amount of radiation are bananas. Could someone please tell me how many bananas the sailors on these "contaminated" vessels would have to eat to get the same radioactive dose?

    I suggest that whatever that number is that the US Navy subtract that from the daily rations for those sailors. Let them eat oranges instead.

  • Three years after the operation ventilation systems still have a 1 BANANA EQUIVALENT DOSE, of RADIATION each hour.
    WE ALL ARE GOING TO DIE. The regulations say area it isn't usable if you can get 200 BANANA:s worth of radiation per hour.
    And yearly exposure limits are 10 000 BANANAS per person, which translates as same CANCER RISK as SIX PACK OF BEER.

  • Enough mdsolar OMG NOOOKS!!! crap posted by Timothy.
    Please stop.
    Yes, the nuclear industry has a shameful record of covering up incidents and accidents but this sort of bullshit does not further the debate.

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