|Lest we forget: Korean residents pray Friday in front of the monument commemorating Korean victims of the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima, at Peace Memorial Park.KYODO|
HIROSHIMA — On the eve of the annual ceremony to remember the dropping of the atomic bomb, the thoughts of many in Hiroshima were on those living near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
“Nobody knows the fear and uncertainty Fukushima residents face over radiation levels better than the people of Hiroshima,” said Setsuko Kumazaki, 68, who lost several relatives on Aug. 6, 1945.
While media polls over the past few months indicate a majority of Japanese favor reducing or eliminating the nation’s reliance on nuclear power, traditional groups formed to seek the abolition of nuclear weapons are more divided.
At a symposium Thursday organized by three groups, there were calls for Japan to abandon nuclear energy in favor of renewable sources. But other participants called for a freeze on new nuclear plants or the continued use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
The relationship between nuclear power and nuclear weapons has always been close. Nonproliferation experts worldwide have long expressed concern over the possibility of nuclear material and technology from a power plant falling into the hands of those wanting to use it to manufacture weapons.
“The connections between nuclear technology for constructive use and for destructive use are so closely tied together that the benefits of one are not accessible without greatly increasing the hazards of the other,” Theodore Taylor, a former U.S. nuclear weapons designer and former deputy director at the U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency, wrote in a 1996 report on the connections between nuclear power and weapons.
With the Fukushima plant in mind, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui was expected to call for a review of the nation’s energy policies during Saturday’s ceremony to commemorate 66 years since the dropping of the bomb.
A growing number of local governments are also calling for a review of the national energy policy and a gradual shift from nuclear energy to renewable. Nuclear power had been providing 30 percent of the nation’s electricity, on average, although some regions are more reliant than others.
For example, while nuclear power supplied more than half of the Kansai region’s electricity in 2010, it accounted for only 3 percent of the electricity generated by Chugoku Electric Power Co. plants, which serve Hiroshima, that year. However this figure was because Chugoku Electric’s nuclear plants were offline much of the year, undergoing inspections. In 2009, nuclear power accounted for 15 percent of Chugoku Electric’s electricity.
The Japan Congress Against A and H Bombs, one of the sponsors of Thursday’s symposium, has launched a nationwide signature campaign to get rid of nuclear power and move toward renewable energy. The goal is to collect 10 million signatures by the end of this year. On Sept. 19, the group plans a rally in Tokyo’s Meiji Park.
Russian envoy’s pledge
The Russian ambassador to Japan, in Hiroshima for a ceremony to remember the annihilation of the city in 1945, pledged Friday to make sure nuclear calamities like the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the Fukushima No. 1 power plant accident never happen again.
“The nuclear crisis is a disaster by natural causes and Hiroshima is a disaster caused by humans. But there is something in common between them: We must make efforts to make sure a similar thing will never happen again,” Mikhail Bely, 65, told reporters a day before the 66th anniversary of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing.
The ambassador from one of the nuclear weapon states is set to attend the peace memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima on Saturday, and in Nagasaki on Tuesday, for the first time. Bely became ambassador to Japan in 2007.
“Japan has memories of the (A-bomb) disaster . . . and their efforts to pass on such memories will be a big contribution to the movement to nuclear arms reductions,” Bely said after visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
“We are in the middle of a process to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. Russia, as part of the international society, aims to abolish nuclear weapons at one point in the future,” Bely said.
On nuclear plants, he said, “I am convinced that the future world will definitely use nuclear energy. But there is a need to improve its safety” in light of the crisis at the Fukushima power plant, which has released a massive radiation since March 11.