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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Routine environmental testing here shows nuclear-powered warships have done no damage to the port, the U.S. Navy said Friday after the Sasebo city government expressed concerns.

The city council said Thursday it wants tighter restrictions and a determination on nuclear vessel safety from the national government following news that a U.S. submarine might have leaked radioactive water during a visit earlier this year.

The Navy runs quarterly tests of sediment, water and marine life at the port and shares the results with Japan, Sasebo Naval Base spokesman Chuck Howard said Friday.

Monitoring has shown that radioactivity in the harbor environment "has not increased above natural background levels" as a result of Navy nuclear-powered ship operations, Howard said in an e-mail response to Stars and Stripes.

The environmental testing is conducted every three months, but the Navy did not say Friday when the most recent tests were completed.

Nuclear-powered vessels, which visit the Sasebo port regularly, have had "no discernible adverse effect on human health, marine life or the quality of the environment," Howard said.

Meanwhile, the Navy base said it will not participate in the city’s annual nuclear safety drill as requested by the city, because Japanese measures are adequate to deal with any "highly unlikely" accident involving a ship.

No U.S. ports that are home to nuclear ships or submarines have specific emergency plans for nuclear accidents, Howard said.

Two leaks were discovered aboard the USS Houston in July while the submarine was in dry dock in Pearl Harbor.

About a gallon of polluted water spilled from a valve onto a sailor’s leg and tests revealed it contained "extremely low levels" of radioactive material, according to the Navy.

The Houston made port visits to Sasebo in March and April.

The city of Sasebo was not notified of the leak until Aug. 2, a day after the national government was informed, and the delay has riled local lawmakers.

The city’s special committee on base affairs passed an emergency resolution Thursday saying it wants the national government to strictly adhere to rules requiring it to notify cities of nuclear accidents, such as leaks of radioactive water.

It also wants the Navy to investigate the Houston leak in the harbor and beef up restrictions for nuclear vessels.


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