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Japan to build radiation monitoring post around Sasebo port

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Japanese government will provide funding for an additional nuclear radiation monitoring post in Sasebo to cover the city’s port entrance and surrounding area, Sasebo city officials said.

The post, a small building fitted with electronic equipment to monitor radiation levels in the air, will be located on Tawaragaura peninsula and will be the seventh such post in the city, according to city officials.

The funding comes amid heightened concerns from Sasebo-area residents regarding frequent visits from the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered vessels and news that low-level radioactive waste was being stored at the base following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, city officials said.

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“There’s no feeling of fear or anxiety among the residents now, but right after March 11 and the incident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, we had calls from residents asking if everything is safe around here,” said Ohshima Masaaki, Sasebo city’s Environment Preservation Division subsection chief. “We dealt with those calls by reassuring them that we are monitoring the amount of radioactivity and by posting data.”

City officials said they don’t have any details on where exactly the post will be located or when construction will begin. They have been lobbying for the post since 2009, shortly after it was revealed that the submarine USS Houston had leaked radiation-tainted water from a faulty valve while in Sasebo.

The U.S. Navy is working with the Japanese government regarding the post, said Charles Howard, a spokesman for Sasebo Naval Base.

“This will enable the system to monitor the radioactivity surrounding Sasebo port so that anxiety will be taken away from the residents of Sasebo,” Sasebo’s mayor Norio Tomonaga said in the statement announcing the funding.

Masaaki added that city officials will also monitor the radiation levels in the area’s seawater from the post, something already done at five of the city’s six posts.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington made two visits to Sasebo in April while the USS Ronald Reagan made one, Howard said. The base also gets frequent visits from nuclear-powered submarines.

“I’m not worried at all,” Masaaki said in regard to the threat of radiation. “We are taking measures to monitor radioactivity.”

burkem@pstripes.osd.mil

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