Guam considers legislation on radiation issue
August 10, 2008
TOKYO — Lawmakers on Guam were to vote Friday night on legislation that would study the feasibility of installing a permanent radiation detector near its port, one day after U.S. Navy officials admitted a nuclear-powered submarine had leaked trace amounts of radiation off of Guam and Japan for two years.
The legislation would put $100,000 toward the feasibility study and an independent investigation of the leakage from the USS Houston, according to Sen. Benjamin J. F. Cruz, the bill’s sponsor.
Acting Gov. Michael W. Cruz, a Republican, expressed his support for the measure Friday afternoon, before the scheduled vote in the Democratically controlled legislature.
"This is a concern for our people and it needs to be addressed by our island’s leaders," Cruz said in a written statement. "We recognize we do not have the expertise on Guam, which is why our agencies are seeking out existing policies to address this matter."
On Thursday, Navy officials told the governments of Guam and Japan that the Houston had leaked trace amounts of radiation from June 2006 to July. The leak was discovered in mid-July during scheduled maintenance in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The Houston, a fast-attack Los Angeles-class submarine, is based in Guam. During the past two years, it made trips to ports in Japan that totaled 30 days, according to a report Navy officials provided the two governments.
Radiation detectors in Japan, which monitor the waters near military ports, did not register the leak, Japanese officials have said.
Sen. Cruz said that does little to ease his concerns.
"They were in Sasebo for a very short period," Cruz said Friday afternoon by phone, before the vote. "The sub was here 366 days. I’m just wondering what the cumulative effects is."
Navy officials have said the amount of radioactivity possibly released in Guam’s Apra Harbor was less than 8 microcuries, an amount that is less than the radioactivity contained in multiple smoke detectors installed in a typical family home, a Navy release read.
"This extremely small amount of radioactivity would have no adverse effect on human health, marine life, or the environment," Lt. Donnell Evans, a spokesman for Commander Naval Forces Marianas wrote in an e-mail.
The legislation would direct Guam’s Department of Public Health and Social Services to conduct both studies, which would be due back to the legislature in 180 days.