No… the water doesn’t glow.

Apparently, the USS HOUSTON has something that is being reported as a “leak” that put water with “trace amounts” of radiation into the water.

The problem was discovered last month when a build-up of leaking water popped a covered valve and poured onto a sailor’s leg while the submarine was in dry dock.

An investigation found a valve was slowly dripping water from the sub’s nuclear power plant. The water had not been in direct contact with the nuclear reactor, Navy officials said.

Officials with knowledge of the incident could not quantify the amount of radiation leaked but insisted it was “negligible” and an “extremely low level.” The total amount leaked while the sub was in port in Guam, Japan and Hawaii was less than a half of a microcurie (0.0000005 curies), or less than what is found in a 50-pound bag of lawn and garden fertilizer, the officials said.

The sailor who was doused, a Houston crew member, tested negative for radiation from the water, according to Navy officials.

I find the CNN article to be sufficiently vague to really figure out what happened. Which is really the way it should be, as Naval Nuclear Power Information is tightly controlled. The Navy Times has few details to add.

The problem I have here is knowing what the backlash will be, especially in Japan. Getting the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON to be stationed in Japan is a big enough issue since their fire. Add on the details of another nuclear ship that had “been leaking while in port in Sasebo, Japan” and one can’t be surprised at all when the Japanese begin protesting loudly against US Nuclear vessels in their ports.

The only reason it bugs me is because I know that the amount of radiation leaked is truly as minor as the Navy says it is. They aren’t kidding folks, half of a microcurie is nothing. You will get more radiation than that from eating a bunch of bananas, or sitting on the beach on the equator.

But, as I always discussed with my JO’s, the average person does not understand nuclear power and needs only to hear the words “radioactive leak” and images of Chernobyl pop into their minds. It’s quite distressing, especially given the need to find a new energy source that doesn’t pollute the environment as bad as coal or gas.

Regardless, I’m sure the folks on HOUSTON are doing the right thing. After all, it can’t be any worse than this leak from a reactor IN JAPAN, that occurred a year ago.

Or, people could just go read this book to learn more.

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9 Responses to No… the water doesn’t glow.

  1. Interesting insights. Another point on nuclear energy is that there are a couple of countries, one being Canada, that offer re-enrichment abilities…..Meaning no radioactive waste, or very little, and much less hazardous.

    I have a question, and will be back to see how you can answer it. A Fleet, and vessels, men, aircraft, and everything that goes along with are decided by the Flagg Officer, Yes? If yes, then do you have any thoughts on what exactly the 4th Fleet will be using?

    Peace and Freedom

  2. Loping Squid says:

    I’m so glad I snapped up a copy of that book years ago at (of all places) the Mystic Aquarium.

    From Amazon:
    “› 14 used & new available from $68.50”

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  4. “The only reason it bugs me is because I know that the amount of radiation leaked is truly as minor as the Navy says it is. They aren’t kidding folks, half of a microcurie is nothing. You will get more radiation than that from eating a bunch of bananas, or sitting on the beach on the equator.”

    Well, to be honest, two pounds of bananas offers 3.5 nCi, so you’d have to eat a whole lot to get to 0.5uCi. About 314lbs.

  5. fastnav says:

    Dean –
    Point taken, but I think the concept is sound. 🙂 bottom line, it’s not enough to worry about.

  6. fastnav says:

    Mateo –
    I’m not sure I completely understand your question, but I’ll attempt a quick answer.

    Regarding Fourth Fleet, as of right now, I don’t believe that the Admiral will have any assets permanently under his command. In essence, he is in charge of what goes on in his area, but only has whatever ships that are sent to his area on deployment to use. Even still, while the Admiral will have responsibility for what happens in his area, his job is to support national and strategic interests. So even though he’s a special operations person, that doesn’t mean he’s going to take charge and start Spec Ops all over South America.

    Quite the contrary, the Fourth Fleet is being stood up to try and improve relations with South and Central America. As close neighbors, we need to improve our cordiality with one another, and standing up a fleet so that we can dedicate a Flag Level officer to improving those relations is just one step on the road.

    Regarding what ships will be used, my guess is that you will see any an everything in the US Navy inventory operating in the 4th fleet AOR.

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  8. Jim Hardeman says:

    The amount of radioactive material leaked (0.5 uCi) — if accurate — is certainly minor, and is several orders of magnitude less than the amount of naturally-0ccuring radioactive materials (primarily potassium-40 and natural uranium) in the volume of seawater displaced by SSN-713, even on the surface.

  9. Kevin says:

    As a former Leading Engineering Laboratory Technician on board 3 different nuclear subs, I am fairly sure I know what the cause of the leakage in this story is. The reason this incident is even being noticed is that the Navy is having to admit they made a mistake by not identifying the leakage prior to the incident in the drydock. As previously noted, the amount of radioactive material released is minimal and when you consider the millions of gallons of water this material is diluted into, there will be no impact on the environment.

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