Editorial: IPPNW World Congress comes to a close

Harmful effects of radiation: Strengthened appeal

The 20th World Congress of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) came to a close yesterday. With the theme “From Hiroshima to Future Generations,” the event was held in Hiroshima for the first time in 23 years. About 1,600 doctors (in total man-days) from 45 countries gathered for the three-day congress, and their efforts to find a path to nuclear abolition are significant.

The Hiroshima Peace Appeal was announced yesterday, the last day of the congress. Involving the cooperation of the Red Cross and other agencies, it conveys a strong message: “We renew our resolve to care for the health of the global Hibakusha, learning from the expertise in radiation medicine and radiation protection gained from the precious sacrifices made in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There must be no new Hibakusha!"

However, with regard to the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant, the appeal merely said, “We must also remember the tragic events at Fukushima.” This seems strange considering that throughout the congress many participants, primarily those from the West, forcefully expressed the need to abandon nuclear power.

We are concerned about the fact that the congress issued an “appeal” rather than a declaration. According to the executive offices of the congress, because the document covers various points and lacks focus, “appeal” was more appropriate than “declaration.” But it can’t be denied that the word “appeal” lacks punch.

The goals of IPPNW are to prevent nuclear war and eliminate nuclear weapons. This was the first World Congress since last year’s accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Because the event was held not just in Japan but in Hiroshima, awareness of the accident was high. In fact, there were plenary sessions at which the participants discussed issues such as the effects of the accident on health and the environment, the circumstances surrounding the accident and the medical support that was provided.

From their standpoint as medical experts, the participants discussed the health of the residents of Fukushima, how to provide them with medical treatment and other care, and the pros and cons of nuclear power. Many people, including atomic bomb survivors and victims of last year’s disaster, must have paid close attention to the IPPNW debate and statements on these issues.

At the press conference following the close of the congress, the American regional vice president of IPPNW stated that abandoning nuclear energy had always been a goal of the organization and that it had become more urgent and pressing since Fukushima.

In this regard, the IPPNW’s Japan affiliate said, “There is general awareness of the need to reduce the reliance on nuclear power, but each country’s situation is different, and we must respect the differences among affiliates.” This suggested a slight divergence of views.

How to establish a stance on nuclear energy will be an issue in the future.

Of course, this does not mean the event produced few results.

The congress called on the world to recognize the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and reaffirmed the organization’s aim of working toward the conclusion of a treaty banning nuclear weapons as soon as possible. The pledge at a symposium by doctors who are children of atomic bomb survivors no doubt moved many participants.

The participants in the Student Congress declared their intention to work not only toward the abolition of nuclear weapons but also toward bringing an end to the nuclear age, including the use of nuclear energy. At the Youth Summit, high school students from Japan and around the world engaged in lively discussions. In an effort to generate interest on the part of the next generation, the summit addressed issues in line with those taken up by the World Congress.

More than three years have passed since U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the speech in Prague in which he pledged to seek “a world without nuclear weapons.” Unfortunately, that momentum is being lost, but the accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima has highlighted the fact that dangers accompany the use of the atom.

The doctors who attended the congress are experts who are well aware of the effects of radiation on the body and its health hazards. They are on a mission to provide accurate information and to protect humankind from the threat of radiation.

We hope that, from their viewpoint as experts, along with working toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, they will issue a warning on the dangers of the use of nuclear power.

(Originally published on August 27, 2012)