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Does US ship pose nuclear threat to Chennai?
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June 25, 2007 13:34 IST

The proposed visit of the United States warship USS Nimitz, one of the largest nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the world, in Chennai has spread panic among port workers, even as Port Trust authorities dismissed their apprehension as unfounded and unwarranted.

The warship, presently in the Gulf, is likely to reach on July 1 and will be anchored till July 5.

Water Transport Workers' Federation of India general secretary T Narendra Rao told PTI that even if there was a small radiation from the super carrier, the entire Chennai city and its surrounding areas would be affected.

He has written to the Union cabinet secretary, Union shipping secretary and Chennai Port Trust chairman not to allow such a 'deadly and disastrous' vessel to enter Indian waters.

"Many countries like Australia have denied permission to the warship to enter their territorial waters," he added.

Though the central government is yet to clear the ship's visit, naval officials had already visited the Chennai Port to supervise the arrangements, he said.

Rao claimed that the Port Trust had made elaborate arrangements to face any eventuality in the wake of the ship's proposed visit and had entirely vacated a hospital complex in order to treat people in case of a nuclear radiation.

Even the medicines for dealing with any contingency would be provided only by the Atomic Energy department, he added.

Port Trust Chairman K Suresh said the fear about nuclear radiation was unwarranted and unnecessary as the warship had already visited many countries as part of its global cruise.

He said the warship would be anchored in the outer anchorage of the port and only crew members would be ferried to the port in boats.

Suresh said the hospital complex was being vacated in order to move to a new premises and it had nothing to do with the proposed visit of the US vessel.

"However, we have not received any official communication from the government about the warship's visit and only the Navy is making arrangements," he added.

Nicknamed 'Old Salt,' USS Nimitz was named after Admiral Chester W Nimitz, who commanded the Pacific fleet in World War II.

Commissioned on May 3, 1975, and built at Newport, United States, the vessel was a floating airport, capable of accommodating 85 aircraft on its 4.5 acre flight deck.

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