Editorial: Perspective on the year 2012

Voices of A-bomb survivors must be conveyed to advance nuclear abolition

It has been learned that the United States conducted a new type of nuclear test last summer which makes use of plutonium.

This has been the third such nuclear experiment that is not accompanied by a nuclear explosion. The United States contends that the aim of these tests involves maintaining the effectiveness of that nation’s nuclear arsenal.

This state of affairs is hard to comprehend. In spite of the fact that U.S. President Barack Obama had pledged to make efforts to realize “a world without nuclear weapons,” the United States has proceeded to carry out as many as three subcritical nuclear tests under his watch. This is tantamount to an act of betrayal which runs counter to the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons.

At the same time, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which took effect between the United States and Russia about a year ago, has run into a dubious development. Russian anger over the U.S. military defense buildup in Europe has led to warnings that it may withdraw from the treaty.

Along with this development, there is the growing possibility of a crisis in which authoritarian nations or terrorists come into possession of nuclear weapons.

Iran has reportedly succeeded in producing nuclear fuel rods and carrying out tests on their performance at an experimental nuclear reactor. The nation claims that the reactor will be used to generate nuclear power, but it has been unable to quiet suspicions that the technology may be utilized for military purposes.

Also a cause for concern is the situation involving North Korea, which has declared that it will move forward with its effort to enrich uranium. The North Korean posture, in using it nuclear weapons program as a tool in negotiations with the international community, makes such conditions highly combustible.

It seems the international community is still not well aware of the horrific consequences of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Toward this end, accounts of the bombings from the A-bombed cities must be persistently conveyed abroad.

The A-bomb survivors, or hibakusha, are growing old and their numbers are dwindling. To take over their accounts and related materials, a robust archive in which these accounts are collected, preserved, and disseminated must be swiftly established.

Starting this April, the City of Hiroshima will enhance the training of younger personnel to carry out activities involving A-bomb accounts in the new fiscal year. With new data revealed last year concerning the “black rain” that fell in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, other documents relevant to this matter may still lie buried. Dogged efforts must be made by both public and private institutions to locate and collect such documents.

In 2011 Hiroshima Prefecture unveiled a “Hiroshima for Global Peace” plan. The prefecture has declared that it will move to train personnel and amass research with the goal of reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism and advancing peace building activities in the world.

To manifest this idea, the prefectural government must join forces with the City of Hiroshima.

Private individuals have taken up efforts as well. Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe and other figures have formed a group to collect essays on A-bomb experiences and the anti-nuclear movement. The group is said to be interested in having the experiences of the A-bombed cities included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

But the obligations of the A-bomb cities are not limited to handing down the A-bomb experiences.

Prior to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant, there was the tendency to distinguish between the military use of nuclear power and its use for peaceful purposes. However, when a nuclear accident spirals out of control, a power station can also produce sufferers of radiation.

Hiroshima must deliver the voices of the hibakusha to the world with the plea: “Human beings cannot coexist with nuclear power.”

The city has a sizable agenda which includes urging world leaders to visit the A-bombed city and calling for the start of negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention. The key to realizing these objectives may be the degree to which the voices of hibakusha can be effectively shared with the international community.

(Originally published on January 6, 2012)