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06 March 2009

Interview with CVN 73 Nuclear Reactor Crew

The below article is translation of this original Japanese article posted on Japan's Citizens Internet Site, JANJAN.




The American navy nuclear powered aircraft carrier George Washington (CVN 73) entered Tokyo Bay and moored at Yokosuka base, and it has passed already 9 months. I have always opposed the station of that aircraft carrier. Recently, I had a chance to contact a crew member handling the nuclear reactor of that aircraft carrier, and since I had opportunities to communicate with him by e mail and also meeting him directly, I asked the man who contacts nuclear reactors directly about the safety.  


 For that crew, to communicate with me may be a little bit risky action. To contact with the opposition group like me is an action that his superior does not want to allow, and if military classified information are mentioned during the contact by mistake, he will face a court-martial. The consent was given on condition that strictly answer questions within the limit that does not touch classified information. Since the real name and detailed characteristics can not be revealed in the article, it is decided that he would be called Mister.


 As referred to crews of warship, catching a glimpse, everybody tends to think that they are soldiers trained for combat, however, actually, most crew members are just people who have no training other than self-defense. Mister told me that he is a crew member belonging to the second largest department which is in charge of the nuclear reactor of the ship, and had received special practice and training for that.  


 The duty is almost 10 hours per day, and also, once a week is 24 hours duty. When it was asked whether such harsh working is safe, he answered that in the military, it is common knowledge to work for 3-4 days with 3-4 hours sleeping, so he does not suffer. When he was asked concerning his salary, that was an astonishing amount. In addition to that, since living cost is almost nothing, it could be saved as much as desired. Well, it is the level that one does not have to worry whether tiredness lowers morale.     


 The following is the questions and the answers of the Mister.


 Me: I heard that nuclear reactors are being turned off during mooring. Nevertheless, I heard that the reactors must be cooled continuously, and for that, the cooling system is working continuously by electricity drawn from the ground, however, if the ground electricity supply system is destroyed by earthquakes, etc., and thus it could not be cooled, wouldn't it be melt down? 

 Mister: First of all, such things can not happen. Warships are designed in anticipation of all situations in the world. Of course, it is designed to withstand also earthquakes. When the electric power can not be supplied, by the power source of the ship using diesel fuel, the cooling system could work continuously. Even if that does not function, in the present condition, it is possible to cool it sufficiently only by air. 


 As a precaution, nuclear reactors are watched by human eyes for 24 hours, without leaving even one second. All staffs in charge of nuclear reactors are professionals with more than two or three years working experience, at least at 2 or 3 nuclear facilities.

 Me: It appears that in the past, accidents such as the leakage of cooling water and the radiation exposure of workers happened, but the U.S. navy has insisted that
no accident. I can not understand, why?


 Mister: The definition of an accident by the navy is the situation that nuclear fission products are leaked from the reactor. The pointed out examples do not fit in with accidents.

 Me: If a plane crashes to the ship from the top or the side, are nuclear reactors safe?

 Mister: Nuclear reactors are located in the bottom lower than the sea level. Even if it is attacked by a torpedo, since shielded heavily (protective partition), the reactors can not be damaged. 

 Me: It appears to use considerably highly concentrated nuclear fuel, right?

 Mister: That is because nuclear reactors are smaller than general ones. Even if it is destroyed, the amount of nuclear materials leaked may not be greatly different.

 Me: As a crew, (routinely) do you feel the fear of radiation exposure?

 Mister: Not at all. In the ship, a counter is installed, and the amount of radiation exposure in the ship is only about 1/3 of the amount received from the sun light.

 Me: Now, I heard that the aircraft carrier has entered the maintenance period until May. Are you repairing nuclear reactors, change nuclear fuel, etc.?

 Mister: According to the regulation, such things can not be done in foreign countries. However, if a part is changed for maintenance, since it is a contaminated material, they are stored stringently, and
to stay nothing of them outside of base, it can not be taken to the outside of vessel, and it will be carried back to our country. 

 Me: Last year, there was an incident that a non-American Nigerian soldier killed a driver. Is the morale OK?


 Mister: All the crew members in charge of nuclear reactors are only Americans. That incidence made us angry. Because, due to the incidence, our reputation became bad.

 Me: Do you feel welcome from Yokosukas people?

 Mister: It is surprising that the station
of the warship became controversial so much. Welcome and unwelcome, I feel both. An interesting thing is when we called at Korea last November, it was completely different hearty welcome. Perhaps, because Korea has the urgent problem of national security.

 Me: How could the reason of the air
craft carrier stationed in Yokosuka be explained?

 Mister: It was understood that first of all, the first is a deterrent power, the second is the relief of natural disasters, and the third is, although actually this is thought to be the most important, to show off American influence.

 Me: What do you think about President Obama taking office?

 Mister: Most military are republicans. That is because the Republican party is in the position to support military expansion. However, personally, I am excited about the first Black man taking office. It is not the time of racism anymore. 


 Me: From the view of a nuclear energy engineer, can you consider to promote nuclear energy as an energy source?

 Mister: I think it should be done. Although accidents are much worried, Chernobyl, etc. happened because their maintenance was completely neglected. Wind power and solar heat could be applied to small communities, but it is not suitable to supply electricity to big cities. Among Bushs policies, one that could be supported is the decision to build 20 new nuclear power generators in the country.


 The engineer who responded to the interview was a typical nice guy. Personally, I also have known many good guys among Americans. Because, may be I had lived in America more than 5 years. 


One can not tell whether George Washington will actually cause accidents. When it happens, it happens. Nonetheless, I am also aware of the argument that the risk of nuclear reactors is not the main issue. The problem is that using our tax, a home port is provided to a huge aircraft carrier of other country. American military also testify in the congress that the military is stationed in Japan because it is cheap due to so called "Simpathy budget" which is Japanese government provides for the aid.    


 I hear the opinion that speaking from the aspect of national security, we should accept U.S. military presence, however, in reality, the right answer is that American soldiers are not required. Already, Japan has an army called the Self-Defense Force with more than enough power to protect the territory. Although "threatening from China”can be frequently heard, according to the estimation of the defense ministry, even if Chinese army attacks, the Self-Defense force could defeat them within several hours.   


 Of course, that is merely an assumption. Nonetheless, even if Japanese and Chinese become the conflict state, if considering the fact that China is the country who owns U.S. treasury bonds most in the world, the possibility that America will become Japanese side is very low. Since the level is the"removal of North Korea from terrorist countries", it is evident that they will be hardly enthusiastic.     

 In spite of such situation, American military is allowed to use the base. According to the common sense of international communities, it cannot help but considering as
"became an occupied country willingly".

 If American force remains continuously more than this, it is not beneficial to both Japan and America. Because of the base problem, the impression of American on Japanese including me worsens daily. If America also considers the Japanese American relationship to be important particularly after the financial crisis, they should feel it is the time of withdrawal.

 It is better to stop providing Simpathy budget" in order to reduce American force stationed in Japan greatly, operate Yokosuka naval base as the base for the Japanese Self-Defense Force, and the nuclear powered aircraft carrier uses the base not as a home port but only as a port of visit. Of course, it will be better to turn off nuclear reactors, and to revise the status of forces agreement to reinforce the right of the safety inspection.


 Indeed, to do such things will become great advantages not only for Japanese people but also for Americans including "Mister". I believe that indeed, it is the role of Japanese government to persuade the U.S. government to do such things.


01 March 2009

Film"Fast Food Nation" Who are to blame?

The film was more like documentary than drama. The story is fiction but it should be based on the facts.

A hamburger store chain manager goes to the meat processing factories to know why the poisonous bacteria were detected on beef for hamburger. The search reveals the harsh reality of fast food chain business and severe conditions of the workers in the factories.


This is something I, myself could more un-USA. But the film was of course produced by Americans. One of the characters was played by a famous actor, Bruce Willis.

The people involved in the story represent the problems of America and the world. Illegal immigrants from Mexico who seek much higher income than their homeland and end up working in meat processing factory where working condition is very, very dangerous.

Farmers who are fighting against corrupt food industry, liberal students who learn stupid system of their country but don't know how to change it.

Well, it just didn't happen in the U.S. Food industry is in fact scary sector. Very profitable but at the same time very competitive and people involved are very greedy.

But the bottom line is this phenomenon was caused by consumers' greed. We are always seeking cheaper products and more convenient way of life.

Then what we see in the end is McDonalds everywhere, people eating cheap but very poisonous beef.


What if we are more knowledgeable and considerate, things might be better.


I've heard that in Europe, there is a movement called "Slow Food. Slow Life."    

16:24 Posted in Film, Politics, un-USA | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: health, economy

22 February 2009

British Film "The Thief of Baghdad" looked like a story of Obama

Well, very surprising! The movie was made in 1940 but the most important character was Black boy.

It was midst of World War I.

The story is a boy named Abu who lived his life by stealing things in Baghdad, met a young ousted king, Ahmad. Ahmad fell in love with a princess in Basra. Jaffar who was a closest retainer and ousted him to take over the position wanted the princess, too. Abu tried to help Ahmad and the princess. Then at last he killed a bad guy, Jaffar and saved the couple and had Ahmad to bring back his position, the king of Baghdad so that he could rule the kingdom peacefully. Ahmad said he wanted not to conquer the people but make them all happy.

Jaffar was Hitler at that time, or Hussein between 1979 and 2003, No! It is Mr. George W. Bush. Real war criminal.


Looked like a real story, I hope. Abu actually looked like Barak Obama, president of the United States.

Abu was a thief but very clever and brave. This was very different from a stereotypical Black character made by Hollywood. In fact it was British film.

In the last scene, Abu flew on the flying carpet and said to the king "I will go on a trip to find out what I want to do."


Well, the destination may be where Mr. Barak Obama is.  

06 February 2009

Economy is rational allocation of wealth

As Obama said in his inauguration speech, "we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works," good economical system does not mean capitalist economy.


As I recall my macro-economy course in U.S., definition of economy is "rational economy of wealth."


If only small number of people get most of the wealth, they would save most of what they earn, not using for consumption because they cannot do that even though they like jet-set life style. If the same amount of wealth was allocated to millions of workers, it will be all used up and circulated in the market and rejuvenate the whole economy.



Free economy, trickle down theory are old fashion ideas. Neo-liberalist economy resulted in today's financial crisis.

That doesn't mean socialist economy is better, it leads shortage of the goods like what happened in former Soviet Union.


Let's think about third way to create better system.

21:24 Posted in Politics, un-USA | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: economy