Here’s a form of snow that you don’t want to be catching on your tongue anytime soon - radioactive snow.
That’s right, Navy sailors stationed in Fukushima, Japan on a humanitarian mission have now been sickened by what they thought was snow, but was actually cold Pacific air that mixed with radioactive steam emanating from the damaged nuclear reactor.
24 year-old Lindsay Cooper, one of the sailors, said she realized something was amiss when she and the other sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier were first hit by a warm gust of air, then by clouds of metallic-tasting snow.
That was three years ago, and now the poor crew, as well as the crews of several other support ships that were in the area at that time (which is estimated to be about 5,000 sailors total), are battling a host of maladies as a result of being exposed to the radiation, such as cancer, thyroid disease, and gynecological bleeding so bad that it requires transfusions, amongst other illnesses.
Cooper said that at first the crew was joking about the “radioactive snow,” but now she has such problems with her thyroid that she experiences extreme fluctuations in her weight, as well as the inability to get pregnant and half-year-long menstrual cycles. She has since been forced to retire as a third-class petty officer due to health reasons. Cooper used to work upwards of 18-hour days in her position.
Paul Garner is the lawyer for 51 of the crew members who have filed suit against the Tokyo Electric Power Co., the entity responsible for the operation of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Garner says that over half of the 70 or so who have fallen ill from radiation sickness have developed cancer as a result. Garner also intends to file an amended lawsuit next month in a San Diego federal court that will bring the total clients he represents to over 70.
The lawsuit argues that officials who worked for the power company at the time knew full-well that the cloud they were releasing into the atmosphere was toxic. This claim has also apparently been made by the Japanese government as well. The lawsuit continues to allege that the company knew the plant was leaking 400 tons of radioactivity per day into the North Pacific ocean, water that the Reagan crew was probably floating on for days and which was being sucked into the ship’s desalinization system. This means that the crew was showering in it, and using the water from their faucets, all the while unaware that it was radioactive.
Senior Chief Michael Sebourn determined in his investigations as a radiation-decontamination officer that the radiation that was present in the air of the aircraft carrier was 300 times higher than what would ordinarily be deemed safe. Sebourn has also experienced his fair share of illness, including severe nosebleeds and extreme weakness, and he says that despite being seen by 20 doctors, no one can pinpoint exactly what it is that’s wrong with him.
Cooper stated that by the time the crew realized that the boat was contaminated and tried to exit the location, the plume of radiation had spread too far to escape. And, to top it off, no one wanted them in their port, including Japan, Guam, and Korea. They were forced to float in the radioactive water for two and a half months until Thailand finally came to their aid. Cooper’s biggest fear now, as the mother of a four year-old girl, is that she will soon develop cancer.