A civic group opposed to stationing a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Japan has sued the government to halt harbor work being done to accommodate the warship, a lawyer said Tuesday.
The U.S. Navy is slated to deploy the USS George Washington next summer to Yokosuka, just south of Tokyo. The Nimitz-class carrier replaces the diesel-powered USS Kitty Hawk.
The decision sparked a backlash in Japan, where feelings run strong over nuclear weapons. Japan is the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack, and critics oppose the basing of a nuclear-powered warship in domestic waters.
Japan's government has backed the idea, however, saying the George Washington would boost regional stability.
The group filed its suit at the Yokosuka branch of the Yokohama District Court, lawyer Masahiko Goto said. About 90 percent of the 649 plaintiffs live in Yokosuka or the vicinity, the group said in a statement.
The suit argues that dredging work slated to begin later this month to deepen Yokosuka harbor for the carrier will spread pollution, killing fish and damaging the livelihoods of fishermen, the statement said.
The warship would also threaten people in surrounding areas with the dangers of radiation leakage should an accident occur, it said.
Defense Facilities Administration Agency officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The deployment marks the first time a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered vessel will be permanently deployed in Japan. The move comes as part of the U.S. military's effort to modernize its forces in East Asia - an area of potential flashpoints with North Korea or China.
Nuclear-powered warships have visited Japanese ports hundreds of times since 1964, and the United States has provided firm commitments to Tokyo regarding the safe use of Japanese harbors by the nuclear-powered vessels.
The United States has about 50,000 troops stationed in Japan under a mutual security pact.