Annual drill tests response to radiation exposure at nuclear-powered carrier in Japan
Stars and Stripes February 3, 2023
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – American and Japanese first responders rehearsed emergency medical procedures involving radiation exposure Thursday, part of an annual joint drill centered on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
Now in its 15th year, the unnamed drill at the U.S. 7th Fleet draws from a rotating catalog of scenarios intended to keep the base and the Japanese government proficient in responding to radiation-related issues.
Last year, for example, the drill focused on a simulated leak of radioactive coolant from the carrier.
“This joint response drill continues to foster strong relationships between the U.S. Navy, the city of Yokosuka and the government of Japan,” Rear Adm. Carl Lahti, commander of Naval Forces Japan, told Stars and Stripes by phone Thursday. “Working together helps further develop more trust and combined coordination.”
First responders rushed Thursday to treat a Ronald Reagan crewmember with a simulated medical condition and low-level radiation exposure.
Teams from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s Yokosuka detachment prepared an isolation area for the faux radiation and later screened for residual contamination.
Meanwhile, first responders from U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka arrived to treat and transport the patient. Later, the scenario described the patient has having a cardiovascular problem, and they were taken to Yokosuka Kyosai Hospital for further treatment.
“This gives us the opportunity to exercise a rare, but credible, problem aboard a nuclear-powered warship,” Naval Forces Japan spokeswoman Cmdr. Katie Cerezo told Stars and Stripes during the drill.
Future drills might include a high-level radiation exposure or a completely different problem, she said.
“This scenario was requested and agreed upon at multiple different levels, but it’s rotational,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is reassure the ability to respond and work with them.”
The exercise’s observers included Yokosuka Mayor Katsuaki Kamiji, base commander Capt. Les Sobol and representatives from a variety of groups.
Cerezo declined to comment on whether the joint drill is meant to alleviate the Japanese public’s concerns about the Ronald Reagan’s reactor.
Last year, Japanese public opinion toward nuclear power began to improve. A Nikkei poll from March 2022 showed that a slim majority, 53%, favored restarting the country’s nuclear power plants.
The response was the highest in favor of nuclear power since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, Nikkei reported April 20. Meanwhile, 38% of respondents said Japan “must not proceed” with restarting the plants.
A similar poll by Jiji Press in July showed similar numbers, with 48% of respondents in favor of restarting nuclear reactors, the Japan Times reported July 21.