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What the accident at the Koodankulam nuclear plant tells us about its disastrous state

The accident last week, involving six scalded workmen, cannot be dismissed as a minor incident. Can an establishment and medical infrastructure incapable of handling six burn injuries be reasonably expected to handle a full-scale radiological disaster?

By Nityanand Jayaraman | Grist Media –

(Photo credit: Reuters)

For the operators of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP) and India’s secretive nucleocracy, the accident couldn’t have come at a better time. On 14 May, 2014, six workers were injured under still unclear circumstances and had to be hospitalized. Thankfully for Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), the media’s preoccupation with the national elections took the spotlight off the accident and its ramifications after a day’s superficial coverage.

When I first got word of the accident, it was 1:50pm on Wednesday, 14 May. I received a terse text message on my cellphone: “Accident at the Koodankulam nuclear power plant 1. Six workers injured. Admitted to hospital.” I set about trying to confirm this news. Confirmation eventually came, but what I learnt and how I learnt it left me in little doubt that the KKNPP setup was not prepared to handle a disaster, and that its communications strategy is itself a disaster. Also, coming as it did less than a week after the Supreme Court declared that it was satisfied with KKNPP’s safety and emergency response, the incident raises doubts not only about the plant’s safety and its operator’s ability to handle emergencies, but also about the Supreme Court’s own appreciation of the hazards and how they play out.

The first information about the accident did not come from NPCIL. All I had was an unconfirmed report. At that time, even the almighty Google News’ search engine could offer no confirmation. NPCIL’s website was silent on the incident. At the time of writing, NPCIL’s website still has no mention of the accident or the fate of the six injured workers. NPCIL staff at Koodankulam remain as cagey today as they were immediately after the incident.

So I called up friends who were part of the ongoing agitation against this plant. They too had heard the news. But official statements from KKNPP’s operator – the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) – were conflicting, they said.

I spoke to V. Pushparayan, a senior activist from the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and AAP Lok Sabha candidate from Tamil Nadu’s southern coastal district of Thoothukudi. “First, they said six people were injured and needed only first aid. Then they said they are being treated at the township hospital and that they actually were able to walk by themselves,” Pushparayan said. “I don’t think they are telling the whole truth. People from Koottapully who have shops in Anjugramam called up to say they saw six ambulances rushing by in the general direction of Nagercoil [a town more than 30 km by bad roads from the plant]. That was about 45 minutes ago. And just about 15 minutes back, Mildred called to say she saw three ambulances at Myladi speeding towards Nagercoil. We don’t know what happened to the other three vehicles.” Anjugramam and Myladi are small towns that lie on the Koodankulam-Nagercoil road.

Another friend called by 2.30 pm to say that the injured six had been admitted to a Kumar Hospital. S.P. Udayakumar, another PMANE leader, a Nagercoil native and AAP candidate from that town, was in Chennai when I called him. He was unaware of any Kumar Hospital in Nagercoil. A quick internet search revealed a Krishna Kumar Orthopedic Hospital in Nagercoil. The telephone numbers on the website did not work. I did not want to disturb the KKNPP station director as he was likely to be busy handling the situation. But soon I was left with no choice. NPCIL’s website, then and at the time of writing this, had no news about the incident. Neither was there any point person at KKNPP who could be called in the event of such emergencies.

It was now well past 3 p.m. By this time, rumors were flying thick and fast. I hesitantly called R.S. Sundar, KKNPP’s site director. Sundar wasted a good five minutes of his valuable time explaining why he would neither confirm nor deny my question on whether an incident happened, and whether the injured were at Krishna Kumar Hospital. He finally palmed me off to a landline phone number. He could have done that at the outset if that is indeed the established protocol. Or was there even a protocol, I wondered.

Thankfully, the landline number, which was answered by a person who identified himself as “PA to Director,” yielded more information. “This is only a preliminary report,” he cautioned me. “Today, three department personnel and three contract workers sustained injuries in Unit 1, Turbine building due to spillage of hot water while working on the HP [High Pressure] heater inlet. That is the technical term – HP heater inlet. The injured persons were [treated] at the First Aid Centre and then taken to our hospital at Anu Vijay Township. From there, they have been referred to a specialty Hospital at Nagercoil. All injured persons are in conscious condition.”

Deny. Downplay. Delude

“Hot water spillage”? “Conscious condition”? What meaning do these phrases convey, and to what end? Describing the ejection of a jet of hot water or a burst of steam from a high-pressure heater inlet in a nuclear plant as a “spillage” is an understatement. And telling reporters that the injured workers are in “conscious condition” reveals nothing about the seriousness of their injuries and leaves the public no better informed about the prognosis for the injured personnel.

Globally, the nuclear industry has a curious choice of words and a penchant to euphemize. That is why an atom bomb is called a ‘nuclear device’, an explosion a ‘detonation’, and the Fukushima disaster a ‘Level 7 nuclear event’. The case at hand is no exception.

Wednesday’s accident did not involve radiation. Burns and broken bones are common workplace injuries. It is precisely the commonplace nature of this incident and how it was handled that expose how the Koodankulam setup has all the ingredients required to bungle the handling of major emergencies. These ingredients are: poor, non-transparent and dishonest communications; lack of emergency response infrastructure; non-compliance with operating procedures; and lack of quality assurance of equipment and personnel.

It is now more than 24 hours at the time of writing since the incident happened. I spoke to the PA to the Station Director again. “Any updates since yesterday on the incident or the status of the workers?” I asked. There was none. “Whatever we forwarded to you yesterday, that is all the information we have. There is no further update,” he said politely.

The cloak-and-dagger treatment of a common workplace hazard hints at a pathology; disclosure and transparency are viewed as a problem.  Most of the incidents, even serious ones involving radiation exposure, within Indian nuclear establishments go unreported – some forever, some for months or years. On January 21, 2003, six workers at Kalpakkam Atomic Reprocessing Plant, 70 km from Chennai, were exposed to heavy doses of radiation exceeding annual permissible limits. The incident did not come to light until June 2003, more than six months later when trade unions upset about lax safety conditions and the management’s lackadaisical attitude struck work. Strangely, the nuclear establishment is such that even trade unions wait six months to make public such issues of common concern.

A Minor Incident?

In the current instance, KKNPP management has admitted that the burnt workers are undergoing treatment in a specialty hospital in Nagercoil. This is a town about 30 km as the crow flies, and nearly 40 km if you were to take the pot-holed road from Koodankulam – at least an hour away even for a speeding ambulance.

The specialty hospital at Nagercoil specializes in orthopedic surgery and trauma care. The injured workers are reportedly suffering from burns. Indeed, it was brought to the Supreme Court’s notice that nowhere in the three districts contiguous to Koodankulam is there a facility to treat burns or radiation injury. “The National Disaster Management Authority’s guidelines for nuclear establishments mandate the availability of adequate medical treatment facilities in the vicinity of the plants and hospitals capable of handling radiation injuries just outside the 16 km zone,” says G. Sundar Rajan, the petitioner in all cases challenging the Koodankulam plant in the Supreme Court.

KKNPP’s director clarified to the media that construction of a super-specialty hospital close to the plant has been completed, but it is not yet functional because equipment is still being procured. When questioned, local people say that the hospital building is nowhere close to ready for occupation.

The current instance, involving six scalded workmen, cannot be dismissed as a minor incident. Can an establishment and a medical infrastructure that is incapable of handling six burn injuries be reasonably expected to handle a full-scale radiological disaster?

Curiously, the Supreme Court, with its faith that nothing bad will happen until everything is eventually in place, declared that it is satisfied that there has been no laxity by the nuclear establishment in implementing its various directives to ensure safe operation and timely and appropriate response to emergencies.

Must be the Workers’ Fault

The “hot water” accident could have happened due to worker error, substandard equipment or both. In the absence of any information from the authorities, some cautious speculation on the generalities may not hurt.

I spoke to Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Board, for clarification. “I suppose you realize that this is not a radiation incident,” he remarked. “But that said, the profile of the workers who were injured is curious – three department personnel and three contract workers.” Contract workers are unskilled or semi-skilled workers who are not necessarily trained for the jobs that they are asked to do. “They are usually brought in to lift this or turn that. This is not peculiar to Koodankulam. I have seen it in many other places. They do it to save money by not employing staff,” he explained.

The relationship between the use of cheaper, though inadequately trained, contract workers and increased workplace hazards and compromised worker safety is well established. Although the current incident occurred in a non-radiation area, it is not inconceivable that in complex systems like nuclear power plants, radiological emergencies can be triggered and/or damage exacerbated by human error – often by inadequately trained or untrained humans – working in non-radiation areas.

The deployment of casual labor in hazardous and high-radiation areas is an attractive option also because contract workers are a nomadic lot. The outcome of workplace exposure among these nuclear “gypsies” need not, cannot, be monitored. The absence of evidence is therefore used to suggest the absence of a problem.

In post-disaster Fukushima, numerous reports surfaced about the deployment of untrained daily wage labor picked up from labor lines in Tokyo and elsewhere for hazardous clean-up work, often involving dangerous levels of exposure. This, it turns out, is nothing new. A 1999 report in Los Angeles Times following the Tokaimura nuclear accident in Japan cites data from Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission which revealed that 89 percent of Japanese people employed in the nuclear industry work for subcontractors. “It is these employees who receive more than 90% of all radiation exposure,” according to the Los Angeles Times article.

Interestingly, just about a year ago, I was interviewing Mani, a 20-something fisherman from Panaiyur Chinnakuppam – a village about 20 km from the Kalpakkam nuclear plant – about what he thought about the coal-fired power plant coming up in Cheyyur near his village. I asked him what he thought about the promoters’ claim that the plant would be safe. He laughed away the question. “I used to work in Kalpakkam [nuclear complex] doing odd jobs. My mother kept nagging me to quit the job,” he recalled. “One day, a few of us were asked to do some work at a site. We were working there dressed in the clothes we wore from home. I got scared when I saw the supervisors who were giving us instructions wearing protective clothing. I never went back after that day.”

The contractualization of labor inside nuclear plants should be, but is not, a matter of concern. Safety depends not only on the integrity of machines but also the skill of mechanics. This is a consideration that has slipped the attention of all those who have given Koodankulam a clean chit.

Shoddy Equipment and Corrupt Deals

In January 2013, RK Sinha, chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission, clarified the reasons why KKNPP Unit 1 had failed a pre-commissioning performance test the previous month. Rumors were already doing the rounds by then in Idinthakarai and among anti-nuclear activists that there was something wrong with certain heavy-duty valves in the plant. Sinha’s statement offered some glimpses of the truth: “Essentially there are some system parameters like flow, pressure, temperature that need to be maintained within particular values.”

Taken together with other statements that appeared in the media, the following picture emerges. During the first hydro test conducted last December, certain valves did not behave the way the manufacturer claimed they would. These valves were opened up, repaired, and some “minor” components replaced.

An ongoing investigation into corruption in the Russian nuclear establishment gives a new twist to the tale. In February 2012, the KGB’s successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Sergei Shutov, the procurement director of Rosatom subsidiary ZiO-Podolsk, on charges of corruption and fraud. ZiO-Podolsk, a machine works company, is the sole supplier of steam generators and certain other key components for Russian nuclear reactors worldwide. The FSB has charged Shutov with sourcing sub-standard steel blanks. According to the Russian media agency Rosbalt, equipment manufactured with cheap Ukrainian steel was used in nuclear reactors built by the Russians in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India.

It is now an admitted fact that ZiO-Podolsk supplied equipment such as steam generator, cation and anion filters, mechanical filters, moisture separators and re-heaters, among other equipment, to KKNPP’s Unit 1.

While the nuclear establishment in China, Bulgaria and Iran have ordered investigations and summoned the Russians to clarify, the Indian nuclear establishment has done nothing more than conduct an enquiry of itself by itself. KKNPP has never adequately defended allegations about the substandard quality of equipment, including crucial valves and re-heaters, supplied to the plant by ZiO-Podolsk.

The Supreme Court, it appears, has issued its orders solely on faith – faith in the ability of the authorities; faith that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board will find in itself the power to be an independent regulator; faith in the technology that has reportedly been deployed.

At the end of the day, though, a lot can go wrong – negligence, human error and corruption can defeat the best defenses technology has to offer and conspire to concoct disaster even from “small incidents.”

Nityanand Jayaraman is a writer and volunteer with Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggle.

Read mor ehere –  https://in.news.yahoo.com/what-the-accident-at-the-koodankulam-nuclear-plant-tells-us-about-its-disastrous-state-060712272.html

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Gangsters and ‘Slaves’: The People Cleaning Up Fukushima

By Michael Okwu, Al Jazeera America

08 January 14

 

n the depths of Japan’s nuclear crisis in March 2011, a small band of workers at the Fukushima power plant stayed behind, stomaching daily doses of deadly radiation to bring the plant under control after a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns. They became known as the Fukushima 50.

“We felt we had a responsibility to put things right,” nuclear engineer Atsufumi Yoshizawa told America Tonight. “And we felt that we were probably the only ones that could deal with the situation.”

The courage of employees like Yoshizawa made them heroes in Japan, and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the stricken power plant, showcases them as symbols for what the company represents. But there is another group of workers that TEPCO rarely mentions, workers who continue to undertake the largest radiation cleanup in history, but are subcontracted into a system that leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. These workers put themselves at great risk every day, for minimum wage, only to be fired when their radiation levels get too high.

America Tonight gained rare access into the dark underworld of Japan’s decontamination industry for this look at the conditions of the workers at its center, and those who profit from their labor. Nuclear gypsies

J-Village used to be Japan’s national soccer training center. Now, it’s where workers gather before heading into the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant – the frontlines of an ongoing nuclear disaster. In Japan, they’re known as “nuclear gypsies,” an army of about 50,000 itinerant laborers recruited at low pay to clean up the radioactive debris and build tanks to store the unending flood of contaminated water that’s generated to keep the reactor cores cool.

Most of them are subcontractors, unskilled and poorly paid.

“They’re, in many cases, living sort of drifter-type lifestyles,” said David McNeill, a journalist and author who has been following the plight of these unsung heroes of Fukushima. “They move from job to job. They’re unqualified, of course, in most cases.”

One of those workers, who had never before spoken to media, told America Tonight about the big promises – and the big risks – of the job.

“My job was to help workers remove their gear when they came back from dealing with contaminated water and debris, and to check them with a Geiger counter for contamination,” explained Tanaka, who asked not to be identified by his real name, like all the workers interviewed by America Tonight, for fear of retribution.

For this work, Tanaka was compensated roughly $100 a day.

Subcontractors poured into Fukushima Prefecture after the earthquake and tsunami triggered the catastrophic nuclear disaster. After all, there’s plenty of money to be made in the estimated $150-billion cleanup effort. As McNeill put it: “There’s an enormous amount of money being scattered around.”

The resulting network of contractors and subcontractors is labyrinthine, making it almost impossible to track the taxpayer dollars siphoned into the cleanup. Reuters counted 733 companies performing work for the Ministry of Environment in the 10 most contaminated towns and nearby highway.

But it appears that very little of that money ends up in the hands of the people on the ground. Hiroyuku Watanabe, a councilman in Iwaki, a city near Fukushima where many laborers find lodgings, said some earn as little as $60 a day.

“For people in Japan who live like me and work various places, it’s hard to find work that pays $100 a day,” said Tanaka, who has spent most of his life traveling Japan as a laborer. “I get housing, and was able to save more than usual.”

“TEPCO is God. The main contractors are kings, and we are slaves.”

Tanaka

‘Nuclear gypsy’

But the risks were also higher. Tanaka was shocked to find radioactive hot spots in the area he worked, marked with tape but never decontaminated. Training and protective gear were also in short supply.

“The training didn’t teach us the dangers of handling radiation, so there were some people who worked with their bare hands,” he said. “They would contaminate not only themselves, but would spread particles to others.”

Subcontracted workers endured worse conditions than those directly hired by TEPCO, Tanaka said. For example, TEPCO employees received charcoal filters, while workers at his subcontracting company only got dust filters, like those you’d buy at a convenience store.

“TEPCO is God,” Tanaka said. “The main contractors are kings, and we are slaves.”

Tanaka was fired after his company’s contract wasn’t renewed. Like many nuclear workers approaching their radiation limit of 50 millisieverts a year, it is unlikely that Tanaka will ever be hired at Fukushima again. He’s since lost his apartment, and is crippled by fatigue.

“I can’t say whether radiation is the cause, but since used-up nuclear workers don’t get any compensation, I’m worried about my future,” he explained. “So some of it could be psychological.”

Gangsters

The subcontracting system and high demand for labor that gave rise to nuclear gypsies have been a boon for one group: organized crime.

The Yakuza is one of the largest criminal organizations in the world. Enmeshed in right-wing politics, the Japanese mafia often target low-skill occupations.

“The Yakuza have, historically, been deeply embedded in the structure of the construction industry,” explained Takeshi Katsura, a laborer who also helps workers exploited by the Japanese mafia.

Finding thousands of bodies to fill some of the most undesirable jobs in the developed world, particularly in a country with an aging population and growing labor shortage, is tough the legal way. And many of the estimated 50 Yakuza gangs in Fukushima have leapt to the task of supplying workers to the labor-intensive effort to decontaminate the prefecture.

“To quickly gather 4,000, 5,000 decontamination workers in Fukushima, you need to do it the traditional way,” said Katsura. “Using the Yakuza.”

The decontamination industry is particularly appealing for criminals, because of the extra government-funded $100-a-day in danger pay per worker. And Fukushima laborers in the grip of organized crime are even less likely to receive their fair share.

“The government says it will pay $100 a day, but I initially got $20,” said Sato, a worker who was lured to Fukushima by the government’s promise of extra cash. “The contractors and subcontractors took the remaining $80.”

“It’s the structure that’s evil.”

Takeshi Katsura

When Sato complained, he was told his contract had changed, and that he now owed money for food and lodging. He later found out that the president of his contracting company was a former leader of the Fukushima branch of a right-wing group.

Sato was lucky. Others who complain and quit like him have faced violent retribution.

“I’ve had workers tell me that they’ve been beat up and been told, ‘I’ll kill you,'” said Katsura. “Threatened with, ‘You know what will happen to you.'”

In January, October and November of last year, Japanese gangsters were arrested on charges of illegally recruiting workers for the government-funded cleanup, reported Reuters. In the October case, the recruiters rounded up homeless men at a train station and sent them to work for less than minimum wage. The workers were at the bottom of a complex ladder that led all the way to Obayashi Corp, one of the 20 major contractors heading the decontamination effort, and the second largest construction company in Japan.

Critics say the subcontracting system allows TEPCO to turn a blind eye to these abuses and wash its hands of worker safety.

“It’s the structure that’s evil,” said Katsura. “Because workers are hired through subcontractors, wages are skimmed all along the way, and the worker at the bottom actually doing the work sees their pay go down.”

In an interview with America Tonight, TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono acknowledged that the ultimate responsibility for working conditions lay with them.

“If there are labor practices that are occurring that violate the law, there’s a legal process to remedy those situations,” he said. “However, it is our responsibility to improve the working environment inside the plant. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we do aim for an even higher level of improvement.”

But any improvements will be too late for the many workers who feel they no longer have a future after toiling in the contaminants of the Fukushima Daiichi plant and the surrounding countryside.

“When they needed people, they used subcontractors to hire us,” said Tanaka. “When our services were no longer needed, I’m among the victims who are thrown away.”

 

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Cyclone Phailin – Marginalised, the old and infirm women and children suffer

OUTLOOK MAGAZINE

VALAY SINGH RAI
Inconsolable Single mother Srita Nayak
CYCLONE PHAILIN: DAMAGE ASSESSMENT
No…Not Good News
The marginalised, the old and infirm women and children suffer the most, and are ignored
  

Even in disaster, the worst blow has been dealt to an already marginalised group in Orissa. The Hadis are a pig-rearing community and can be found living at the periphery of villages. Seventeen families of this community are the only ones whose houses have been completely destroyed by Cyclone Phailin in the Old Baxapalli village of Ganjam district. They are also the only ones to take shelter in the local primary school. Having lost their meagre food stocks, they are surviving on the generosity of the villagers and the nearby army camp, which has been serving them khichdi every day. They may still have their lives but they have lost everything else they possessed to the cyclone. Yet, till three days after, nobody from the government has bothered to assess their losses. There are single-women households, disabled people and young children who need immediate care and support. Without it, they will be red­uced to utter penury, a prospect millions others in Orissa are facing.

True, both the government and the people were better prepared to face the ‘badya’ (as a cyclone is called in Oriya) this time. Ever since the 1999 supercyclone, which claimed 12,000-plus lives, the state had become much more disaster-sensitive. Several NGOs in the state had been running disaster preparedness progra­mmes, working closely with the government and communities, even schools.

But that would be half the work done. In Ganjam district alone, 15 lakh people have lost their homes and all their belongings to the cyclone. People in the villages we visit are angry that the government is yet to take note of the damage to their houses, the loss of crop like coconut, cashew, paddy and plantain, or their fishing nets and boats.

Srita Nayak, a single mother of three young children, of whom six-year-old Mary is paraly­sed, is inconsolable. The cyclone made an alr­e­ady bad situation worse for her, forcing her to work as a daily-wager to support herself and her children. For her, it is a disaster.

The situation is no better in Baddanouliya­naugam village, 30 km away and barely 300 metres from the sea. Its residents, almost all of them fisherfolk, left their houses a day before the cyclone struck, but didn’t take shelter in the government-built storm shelter. They went instead to Chhatrapur, the district headquarters of Ganjam. “Have you seen what bad shape it is in? Who’ll stay there?” ret­orted a villager when asked why they didn’t go there.

The villagers returned on Sunday to find Phailin had not spared even a single house. But like elsewhere, the government had made no assessment till the time of writing, even though chief minister Naveen Patnaik had made a quick visit to a neighbouring area.

Kammudu and her husband were among those who had left home a day before the cyclone with their two small children and a month-old baby girl whom they have not even named yet. Their meagre food stock is ruined and Kammudu has been feeding her children only chatua and biscuits. According to the local accredited social health activist M. Parvathi, there are 25 pregnant women and 145 young children in this village of 1,700 people.

According to government figures, the crop loss is to the tune of Rs 4,005 crore. Prahlad Sethi, a farmer who owns a four-bigha plot in Venkatraipur village, is desperate because he has lost 90 per cent of his coconut, chiku and plantain crop. “One coconut tree used to fetch me Rs 3,000 annually, now there are only five of them standing; my chiku and mango trees too have been destroyed,” he says. “We have no recourse but to borrow or beg now.” In the same village, 60-year-old Kalagang­amma sits desolately in the veranda of her damaged house. She says she doesn’t have a BPL card and there is nothing to eat in the house. Village after village, it is the same story; people are alive but desperate, having lost their houses and livelihoods. Socially excluded groups like the Hadis, along with women, children and disabled people, are the worst hit.


By Valay Singh Rai in Ganjam

(Rai works for Save the Children and is currently helping with cyclone relief in Orissa.) 

 

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Hiroshima’s Peace Declaration, August 6, 2013

Hiroshima’s Peace Declaration, August 6, 2013

August 06, 2013

We greet the morning of the 68th return of “that day.” At 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb erased an entire family. “The baby boy was safely born. Just as the family was celebrating, the atomic bomb exploded. Showing no mercy, it took all that joy and hope along with the new life.”

A little boy managed somehow to survive, but the atomic bomb took his entire family. This A-bomb orphan lived through hardship, isolation, and illness, but was never able to have a family of his own. Today, he is a lonely old hibakusha. “I have never once been glad I survived,” he says, looking back. After all these years of terrible suffering, the deep hurt remains.

A woman who experienced the bombing at the age of 8 months suffered discrimination and prejudice. She did manage to marry, but a month later, her mother-in-law, who had been so kind at first, learned about her A-bomb survivor’s handbook. “‘You’re a hibakusha,’ she said, ‘We don’t need a bombed bride. Get out now.’ And with that, I was divorced.” At times, the fear of radiation elicited ugliness and cruelty. Groundless rumors caused many survivors to suffer in marriage, employment, childbirth—at every stage of life.

Indiscriminately stealing the lives of innocent people, permanently altering the lives of survivors, and stalking their minds and bodies to the end of their days, the atomic bomb is the ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil. The hibakusha, who know the hell of an atomic bombing, have continuously fought that evil.

Under harsh, painful circumstances, the hibakusha have struggled with anger, hatred, grief and other agonizing emotions. Suffering with aftereffects, over and over they cried, “I want to be healthy. Can’t I just lead a normal life?” But precisely because they had suffered such tragedy themselves, they came to believe that no one else “should ever have to experience this cruelty.” A man who was 14 at the time of the bombing pleads, “If the people of the world could just share love for the Earth and love for all people, an end to war would be more than a dream.”

Even as their average age surpasses 78, the hibakusha continue to communicate their longing for peace. They still hope the people of the world will come to share that longing and choose the right path. In response to this desire of the many hibakusha who have transcended such terrible pain and sorrow, the rest of us must become the force that drives the struggle to abolish nuclear weapons.

To that end, the city of Hiroshima and the more than 5,700 cities that comprise Mayors for Peace, in collaboration with the U.N. and like-minded NGOs, seek to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020 and throw our full weight behind the early achievement of a nuclear weapons convention.

Policymakers of the world, how long will you remain imprisoned by distrust and animosity? Do you honestly believe you can continue to maintain national security by rattling your sabers? Please come to Hiroshima. Encounter the spirit of the hibakusha. Look squarely at the future of the human family without being trapped in the past, and make the decision to shift to a system of security based on trust and dialogue. Hiroshima is a place that embodies the grand pacifism of the Japanese Constitution. At the same time, it points to the path the human family must walk. Moreover, for the peace and stability of our region, all countries involved must do more to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free North Korea in a Northeast Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone.

Today, a growing group of countries is focusing on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and calling for abolition. President Obama has demonstrated his commitment to nuclear disarmament by inviting Russia to start negotiating further reductions. In this context, even if the nuclear power agreement the Japanese government is negotiating with India promotes their economic relationship, it is likely to hinder nuclear weapons abolition. Hiroshima calls on the Japanese government to strengthen ties with the governments pursuing abolition. At the ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative next spring in Hiroshima, we hope Japan will lead the way toward a stronger NPT regime. And, as the hibakusha in Japan and overseas advance in age, we reiterate our demand for improved measures appropriate to their needs. As well, we demand measures for those exposed to the black rain and an expansion of the “black rain areas.”

This summer, eastern Japan is still suffering the aftermath of the great earthquake and the nuclear accident. The desperate struggle to recover hometowns continues. The people of Hiroshima know well the ordeal of recovery. We extend our hearts to all those affected and will continue to offer our support. We urge the national government to rapidly develop and implement a responsible energy policy that places top priority on safety and the livelihoods of the people.

Recalling once again the trials of our predecessors through these 68 years, we offer heartfelt consolation to the souls of the atomic bomb victims by pledging to do everything in our power to eliminate the absolute evil of nuclear weapons and achieve a peaceful world.

 

Kazumi Matsui

Mayor

The City of Hiroshima

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201308060020

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