• Kyodo

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Yokosuka Mayor Ryoichi Kabaya said Wednesday it is inevitable that his city will accommodate a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier at the key naval base here, making it clear he no longer opposes the deployment.

The mayor’s acquiescence is expected to bring Yokosuka one step closer to becoming the host of a U.S. nuclear-powered carrier for the first time, although local opposition is expected despite U.S. safety assurances.

“Now that the likelihood of (the deployment of) a conventionally powered aircraft carrier is nil, I believe the deployment of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is inevitable,” Kabaya told Yokosuka Municipal Assembly members.

Japan and the United States agreed last October on the deployment of a nuclear-powered flattop to replace the 86,000-ton USS Kitty Hawk, a diesel-powered carrier slated to be decommissioned in 2008. In December, the U.S. Navy named the 102,000-ton USS George Washington as the Kitty Hawk’s replacement.

Kabaya opposed the deployment of a nuclear-powered carrier at the time, and traveled to Washington in December to lobby for a conventionally powered replacement.

But he hinted he was ready to accept the Washington after the U.S. ruled out replacing the Kitty Hawk with the diesel-powered USS John F. Kennedy, the other remaining nonnuclear carrier, because it is slated for retirement.

The U.S. government also gave a document to the mayor outlining the safety features of the Washington. Kabaya said there was no reason to protest the deployment if the carrier’s safety has been confirmed.

The document says the amount of radioactive material that could be released while the vessel is in port, in an accident involving the ship’s reactor, is less than 1 percent that of a typical nuclear reactor, and even if a radioactive leak occurred, the effects would be minimal.

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