Symposium INDEX

Japan Peace Conference 2009
Special Reports


Masahiko GOTO

Co-Chair, Yokosuka Citizens against Homeporting of U.S. Nuclear Aircraft Carrier
Kanagawa Prefecture


Dangers caused by homeporting of nuclear-powered aircraft carrier G. Washington at Yokosuka and movements against it

The U.S. Yokosuka Naval Base is a stronghold for the U.S. Seventh Fleet, and accordingly has served as a homeport for many U.S. vessels. On September 25 last year, amid strong opposition from many citizens and their concerns about possible nuclear reactor accidents, the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was deployed and Yokosuka was made its homeport.

For four months from January this year, works for maintenance of nuclear reactors on the George Washington took place in the Yokosuka base. The U.S. Navy admitted in response to an Asahi Shimbun inquiry that such works involved handling of radioactive materials. During a hearing held on March 19 by the U.S. House of Representatives, Commander Timothy J. Keating of the U.S. Pacific Command testified that the U.S. Navy had already constructed a controlled industrial facility on the Yokosuka base.  At the end of March, according to the Navy, a transport ship loaded with radioactive wastes generated from the maintenance work left Yokosuka to the United States.

These facts revealed that the maintenance work of the reactors on the George Washington included replacement of the primary coolant water, filters, and parts contaminated with radioactivity, and therefore the work was very dangerous, with potential radiation exposure of workers, problems of generating radioactive wastes and their storage, and a possible radiation leakage to surrounding environment. The maintenance work proved to pose serious threat to the health and livelihoods of local people.

Yokosuka is located at the entrance to the Tokyo metropolitan area where 30 million people live. If a reactor accident occurs on the aircraft carrier in Yokosuka, radioactive fallouts could shower down also on Tokyo and Yokohama, and experts estimate that depending on conditions, more than one million people will be killed in the accident.

In addition, what contributes to an increase in dangers of a nuclear accident is the fact that there is no system to monitor or inspect the reactors on the U.S. vessels. As for reactors of nuclear power stations in Japan, the Japanese government discloses information, conducts on-site inspections, checks the safety of plants, including giving orders to shutdown their operations, and implements a system to supervise and monitor all the plants based on related laws. But the Japanese government does not have access to information on the reactors of U.S. nuclear vessels and has no authority to inspect or order their suspension of operation to secure the safety. This is nothing but sacrificing the safety of the Japanese people to the United States.

The more the maintenance system in Yokosuka for U.S. nuclear warships is improved, the more nuclear ships come to Yokosuka, using the port as an important strongpoint of the U.S. Navy.

On August 24 this year, another U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Nimitz made a port-call at Yokosuka. Although Yokosuka Port is designated as the homeport of the USS George Washington, the Nimitz came there. This has never happened before.  On the following day after the Nimitz left Yokosuka on August 28, the former strategic nuclear submarine SSGN Ohio entered Yokosuka Port, and the day after the Ohio left the port on September 2, the George Washington came back to the port.

In order to enable a large nuclear submarine to be anchored at Berth 13 next to Berth 12 where the George Washington is now berthed at, dredging work is now on the way to start.

For more than a decade, we have conducted activities in opposition to the homeporting of Yokosuka for U.S. nuclear warships.  Through our various activities, including two initiatives for referendum on pros and cons of the use of Yokosuka as the U.S. Navy homeport, many people have become aware of the dangers from the deployment of a nuclear aircraft carrier and of the need to decide the future course of our city on our own. The deployment of the George Washington to Yokosuka last year was not the end of our movements, but marked the start of a new campaign to defend our safety from dangers of increasing number of nuclear accidents.

In the Yokosuka City mayoral election in June this year, I myself as a candidate for mayor appealed to voters on my opposition to the planned homeporting. I could not win in the election but a young mayor was born after defeating the incumbent candidate who had allowed U.S. forces to use Yokosuka.

As a result of the August general elections, the long-standing conservative government that had accepted homeporting of U.S. vessels at Yokosuka was replaced by a new coalition government. We will call on the new government to make a shift from the conventional attitude the past governments had taken towards U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

Any information of U.S. nuclear carriers is military secrets. To place the homeport of such a vessel in a foreign country and carry out its repair works there is an inconsistent choice for the United States. The Japanese and the Yokosuka City governments should not unconditionally cooperate with the U.S. scheme and should demand that all information be disclosed to the public, carry out safety inspections, prevent the U.S. forces from conducting any more dangerous practices, and appropriately check the funding related to the Yokosuka base. All these measures will shed light on further inconsistencies and bring about a new situation leading to the cancellation of the use of Yokosuka as the U.S. military homeport.

We will strengthen our movements more than before, calling for the withdrawal of the U.S. decision to use Yokosuka as its military homeport, through a variety of activities, increasing public awareness, filing of a lawsuit for suspension of homeporting and campaigning for holding a referendum. From 1 p.m. of December 13, a citizens' parade calling for a Yokosuka free of foreign military vessels will take place in the city.

At the same time, we will also call on the international community, the U.S. government, the U.S. Congress, and people of the world to be aware of the dangers caused by hosting a homeport of the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the metropolitan area of Japan, where 30 million people live. We will make our utmost effort to free Yokosuka from being a homeport of the U.S. Navy without further delay. I ask all of you present here today for strong support to our movements. Thank you.