JAPAN | Nagasaki mayor calls for denuclearization

Posted on August 10, 2011

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JAPAN | ASAHI SHIMBUN | 10 August 2011

NAGASAKI–The mayor of Nagasaki called for Japan to move away from nuclear power generation at a ceremony on Aug. 9 to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Speaking after a moment’s silence at 11:02 a.m., the exact moment when the atomic bomb was detonated in 1945, Tomihisa Taue told 6,000 participants in the ceremony at Nagasaki Peace Park that Japan should never have another hibakusha, or nuclear victim.

“As a people of a nation that has experienced nuclear devastation, we pleaded that there should be ‘No more hibakusha.’ How has it come about that we are threatened once again by the fear of radiation?”

Taue said he had wrestled with the issue of abandoning nuclear energy since the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant this March. He worried about the effects of denuclearization on industry and peoples’ lives. However, after discussions within a committee of scholars and hibakusha involved in drafting his “peace declaration” to the ceremony, he backed the call for developing renewable energy sources “in place of nuclear energy.”

He said: “I still do not know what the process will be to eliminate all nuclear plants. But, finally, I felt the need to return to the simple and honest starting point.”

He added: “The path toward never again creating hibakusha will in the end lead us to having no nuclear plants in Japan.”

Pointing to the Fukushima accident, Taue asked, “Have we become overconfident in the control we wield as human beings?”

He continued: “No matter how long it takes, it is necessary to promote the development of renewable energies.”

Taue also called for the elimination of nuclear weapons and the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia.

In his speech, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said: “We will seek to reduce our dependence on nuclear energy in trying to create a society that does not depend on nuclear power plants.”

The mayor of Fukushima city, Takanori Seto, and 43 junior high students from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, were present. James Zumwalt, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, became the first official representative of the United States government ever to attend the Nagasaki ceremony.

Officials from three other nuclear powers–Britain, France and Russia–were among representatives from 44 nations and the European Union, the largest diplomatic presence ever.

Over the past year, 3,288 people died from conditions connected to the atomic bombing, bringing the total number of deaths from the 1945 bomb to 155,546.

A representative of the hibakusha, Hisao Matsuo, 83, said he wanted to pass on the voices of all those who had died.

Matsuo was 17 on Aug. 9, 1945, and working at a weapons factory about 1.2 kilometers from ground zero.

He was talking with a colleague when he saw a large flash of light. He was thrown to the ground by the explosion and the roof of the factory was blown off. Neighboring buildings were toppled.

His mother left that morning saying she was going farming. She was never found. Four other relatives died, including three siblings and a nephew.

“It was an inhumane act that indiscriminately took the lives of several tens of thousands of innocent citizens,” Matsuo said.

He also touched upon the Fukushima nuclear accident.

“Many people were exposed to the fears of radiation,” he said.

He pledged to spend the remainder of his life seeking a world without nuclear weapons, war or fear of radiation.

 

(This article was written by Kenichi Ezaki and Yuji Endo.)

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