A petition signed by more than 300,000 people protesting any deployment of a nuclear carrier to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, after the USS Kitty Hawk is decommissioned in 2008 was submitted to the mayor of Yokosuka on Friday, according to the group that submitted the petition.

Leaders from the Citizens Coalition Concerning Home-Porting of a Nuclear-Powered Carrier to Yokosuka Naval Base handed the petition to Yokosuka Mayor Hideo Sawada at the city hall.

The petition urges Sawada to take further action to dissuade deployment of a nuclear carrier. It also urges him to press the central government to officially state its desire to have a non-nuclear carrier. It also calls on the mayor to stop construction on an extension of the Piedmont Pier, or Pier 12, that the group suspects will be used for a nuclear carrier, though the Navy has said construction began many years ago and is intended for the Kitty Hawk. Navy officials said they are aware of the petition.

“No decision has been made on the Kitty Hawk replacement issue,” said Cmdr. John Wallach, spokesman for Commander, Naval Forces Japan.

Sawada, who has said a non-nuclear carrier should replace the Kitty Hawk, said during the meeting with the coalition Friday that he will continue to press the Japanese government, said attorney Masahiko Goto.

The group started collecting signatures in April. The group had submitted a similar petition in the past, having collected 100,000 signatures in three years.

“The petition doesn’t suggest what should be done to the Security Treaty but concerns people’s daily lives such as food and environment,” Goto said. He points out that if there are any accidents in Yokosuka, it could affect people in the Kanto area, which includes Tokyo and Yokohama.

“There is a sense of urgency among people,” said Goto, referring to the reason they were able to collect more signatures than in their earlier campaign.

There have been a number of unconfirmed Japanese news reports suggesting the Navy is looking into decommissioning the non-nuclear USS John F. Kennedy to reduce the number of carriers and that there will be only nuclear carriers left to take over the mission after Kitty Hawk retires. The Kennedy is the only other conventionally powered carrier left in the Navy.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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