U.S. Sub May Have Leaked Radiation While in Japan
TOKYO — An American nuclear-powered submarine may have leaked a small amount of radiation as it stopped by Japan in the spring and was then deployed throughout the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese government said Saturday.
The Japanese government said that it was informed Friday by the United States Navy that the submarine, the Houston, might have discharged an amount of radiation that was too small to be considered harmful.
The chief government spokesman, Nobutaka Machimura, said in a news conference that the radioactive amount — estimated at less than half a microcurie — was too insignificant to “affect the human body or the environment.”
The submarine spent a week in March in Sasebo, in western Japan, before cruising to Guam and then Hawaii, where the leak was discovered during an inspection late last month, the Japanese government said.
The Japanese government and American military have been trying to ease public resistance to the stationing in September of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the George Washington, in Yokokusa, southwest of Tokyo. The scheduled arrival of the George Washington, which will replace the diesel-powered aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, has caused protests in Japan, the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons.
The announcement also was an embarrassment for the government of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who shuffled his cabinet on Friday in a bid to raise his low approval ratings. Government officials learned of the leak Saturday from television reports even though the United States Navy had informed the Japanese Foreign Ministry a day earlier.
“I, too, came to know about it this morning on television,” the foreign minister, Masahiko Komura, said at a news conference on Saturday.
Last winter, a Japanese warship collided with a fishing boat early one morning, killing the boat’s two passengers. But naval officials were criticized for taking more than an hour to inform the defense minister at the time.
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