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The sea of death

By John Loretz | IPPNW | July 13, 2018

The US conducted 105 atmospheric and underwater tests at its Pacific Ocean proving ground from 1946-1962. Massive amounts of radioactive fallout from those tests spread across the Pacific, causing severe health effects that have continued to this day.

One of the best-known incidents from this reckless and shameful history was the fate of the Japanese fishing boat the Lucky Dragon. Despite being 90 miles away from ground zero, all 23 crew members were covered in thick layers of fallout from the March 1, 1954 Castle Bravo explosion, which, at 15 megatons, was the largest US nuclear test. The entire crew suffered from acute radiation sickness and were hospitalized for months. One crew member died from his injuries.

As it turns out, the Lucky Dragon was not an anomaly. Japanese film maker Hideaki Ito has produced a documentary called “Exposure to Radiation—Post X Years,” which explores how the extensive tuna fishing ground came to be known as “the sea of death.” The fishing crews had no idea they were working in heavily contaminated waters, and contaminated tuna became a health hazard throughout Japan.

Hideaki and his crew surveyed affected communities some 50 years later, and spoke with public health experts about the limited data that’s available. Field maps obtained from what was then the US Atomic Energy Commission, show fallout paths extending across the Pacific and the US, reaching into Canada and parts of Central and South America. Today, cesium-137 from the tests has been detected in ground samples under houses in Okinawa, Kyoto, and Yamagata prefectures.

Hideaki’s full documentary exists only in Japanese. When he visited IPPNW last fall after a showing at an MIT film festival, we encouraged him to make at least a portion of the film available in English. He has now come back to us with an 11-minute abridged version that we highly recommend to anyone concerned about the health and environmental consequences of nuclear testing and their persistent legacy.

“Knowing how much damage was done in order to make nuclear weapons,” Hideaki told us, “I believe it will be a great accomplishment to abolish them.”

July 13, 2018 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , | 1 Comment

No more nuclear weapons testing

By Bjorn Hilt | International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War | September 8, 2014

A complete halt to all nuclear weapons testing is within reach. The testing of nuclear weapons is already prohibited under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) of 1996.

The problem is that not enough countries have yet ratified the treaty for it to enter into force. Along with 159 other governments, the nuclear-weapon-possessing states that have ratified the treaty so far are Great Britain, France, and Russia, while the US and China are still reluctant to do so, for who knows what reason (www.ctbto.org ). China says it will ratify the treaty the day the US does. For the CTBT to enter into force, however, six other  States still need to ratify the treaty: India, Pakistan, Israel, the DPRK, Egypt, and Iran. Many experts believe that US ratification is the key to all the others. Consequently, the whole world is held hostage just because the US Senate refuses to ratify an international treaty that is vital to us all.

During the past week, IPPNW held its 21st World Congress in Astana, Kazakhstan, with around 300 physicians and medical students from 35 countries participating. Our host country has suffered a lot from nuclear weapons testing. From 1949 until 1989 the former Soviet Union had its main testing site for nuclear weapons near the town of Semipalatinsk in eastern Kazakhstan. During that time the USSR performed at least 456 nuclear tests at the site of which at least 92 were atmospheric, introducing a serious radiation burden into the environment. Radiation from nuclear fallout was far beyond what humans can normally tolerate.

The health consequences of testing in Kazakhstan have been studied in recent years. They have been—and still are—dramatic: excess cancers and other diseases, malformations, and genetic damage. The good news in this terrible situation is that when Kazakhstan became independent in 1991, the government decided to shut down the nuclear weapons test site and to dismantle or return to Russia all of the 1,410 nuclear warheads that Kazakhstan had inherited from the former Soviet Union. The transfer was completed in 1995 and made Kazakhstan a much safer place for its 18 million inhabitants.

Moreover, in 2006, the independent states Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan declared Central Asia a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and, in May 2014, the five old states that still possess nuclear weapons issued a guarantee that they would never use nuclear weapons against any of the Central Asian states. Good news for them.

As the Kazakhs have seen the terrible long term effects of nuclear testing on their own people, they have initiated an international campaign against nuclear testing called the ATOM project (Abolish Testing – Our Mission). They have called for 29 August to be the International Day Against Nuclear Weapons Testing, and the occasion was marked with a minute of silence in many places while we were in Kazakhstan.

I think that the states that have not yet ratified the CTBT, in particular the US and China, owe it to the victims of nuclear weapons testing and uranium exploitation all over the world to ratify the treaty right away as a concrete and necessary step on our way towards a safer world free of nuclear weapons.

September 8, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment