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Military monitors radiation as troops deliver humanitarian aid

SEOUL — U.S. military assets continue to converge on Japan, hoping to deliver humanitarian assistance while being careful not to expose servicemembers to radiation leaking from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.

“We continue to monitor the winds closely, moving our ships and aircraft as necessary to avoid the wind line from the Fukushima Power Plant,” U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Davis said in an e-mail.

“Aircraft and aircrews returning from missions ashore are being monitored carefully for contamination, and are conducting decontamination procedures as necessary when it is detected,” he said.

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Davis said the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group flew 29 sorties Tuesday, delivering 17 tons of supplies — including food, water and blankets — to hard-hit areas of northeastern Japan.

To date, 25 tons have been delivered, he said.

In addition, strike group aircraft conducted three coastal search-and-rescue sorties on Tuesday.

The strike group, which is continuing operations Wednesday off the east coast of Honshu, includes the cruiser USS Chancellorsville; destroyer USS Preble; combat support ship USNS Bridge; along with guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald, USS John S. McCain, USS McCampbell and USS Curtis Wilbur.

An additional destroyer, USS Mustin, is at sea south of the disaster site.

On Tuesday morning, Davis said, “sensitive instrumentation on USS George Washington pier-side in Yokosuka detected low levels of radioactivity from the Fukushima plant. While there was no danger to the public, Commander, Naval Forces Japan recommended limited precautionary measures for personnel and their families on Fleet Activities Yokosuka and Naval Air Facility Atsugi, including limiting outdoor activities and securing external ventilation systems as much as practical.

“These measures are strictly precautionary in nature,” he continued. “We do not expect that any United States federal radiation exposure limits will be exceeded even if no precautionary measures are taken.”

The USS Tortuga, with two heavy-lift MH-53 helicopters embarked, picked up about 300 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel and 90 vehicles Tuesday in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, and was scheduled to deliver them to Ominato, on the island of Honshu.

Davis said the USS Essex, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Germantown, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, continue en route to the area and are expected Thursday.

“Given the radiological and navigation hazards on the eastern coast of Honshu, the ships will take position in the Sea of Japan on the west coast of Honshu, where they will be in the best position to launch disaster relief missions over land,” Davis said.

rabiroffj@pstripes.osd.mil

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