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Messages from Nagasaki

Hiroo Kawakami (male)
'Chokubaku'  3.7 km from the hypocenter / 12 years old at the time / current resident of Hyogo

Photographer: Eiichi Matsumoto.
The scenes of the A-bombed city are introduced here. The photographs are not directly connected with the messages.

My best friend Kudo, who died due to the radiation exposure, and the little child who followed me around through the hypocenter are just two of the things that have stuck in my mind for a long time. After many years, they still remain strong in my mind, and every time I think of them, I want to appeal to the world the horror of modern warfare and the value of peace.

I think there have been two nuclear war crises since then.
The first one was during the Korean War, when the Chinese Army intervened and there was a growing sense of impending crisis in the U.S. Army. President Truman did not allow it. The second one was when Khrushchev withdrew the Soviet Army during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Both times, the crisis was averted as a result of the wisdom demonstrated by the leaders of the great powers of the day. After that, during the Cold War, nuclear weapons were valued only as a deterrent.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the peaceful uses of atomic energy. However, at the same time, the development of nuclear weapons has been becoming easier than ever due to advances in nuclear technology. When I think of this present condition in which one can't deny the possibility of an unexpected and accidental nuclear war breaking out, as one of the A-bomb survivors I feel a strong sense of obligation as well as determination to continuously appeal to the world for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Today, after the Cold War, I wonder how we are supposed to explain the discrepancy that the United States, being the biggest nuclear state in the world, is fighting a war against terrorists who possess small nuclear weapons?
Or is it our tragic fate that the earth is going to perish because of environmental destruction before our cry for the elimination of nuclear weapons reaches the world?
I want to send the answer to this question on to the next generation.

Just about when I turned 60, I was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center. The doctor said the cause was unknown and it was incurable. The symptoms included palpitations, shortness of breath, and swelling of the body. The doctor thought the cause of this illness was something unusual, such as exposure to radiation. Then it made sense to me why I had had those symptoms for several years prior to my doctor's visit. The condition has continued to bother me for about ten years now, though it got neither better nor worse. However, in a recent test, the doctor found no laboratory abnormalities and told me that it was mostly cured. I was in utter amazement when I heard this. Once I was told I had an incurable illness, and the only thing that could be done was a symptomatic treatment of taking diuretics. Now I was being told that it was all cured, despite the fact that the subjective symptoms have not improved at all.

I did not receive direct exposure to radiation when the A-bomb was dropped in Nagasaki. However, I did go to the hypocenter three days later. I also went frequently to Keiho Middle School and rummaged through the wreckage. So, I must have been covered with dust containing radioactive substances for several days after the bombing. In recent years, there have been trials on A-bomb disease certification all over the country. But when I think about it, there are still a lot of A-bomb survivors, suffering from diseases whose causal relationship to radiation exposure has not been proven.
My friend Kinoshita, who advised me to apply for the A-Bomb Survivor Health Book, is now partially paralyzed from a cerebral infarction. My mother passed away eight years ago. My sister is suffering from Hashimoto's thyroiditis (chronic thyroiditis) with symptoms such as a myocardial infarction and thyroid abnormalities. My brother had a brainstem infarction two years ago. He is now completely paralyzed and barely alive. He is unable to move or speak, and food is sent directly into his stomach through a tube. He is just breathing quietly with his eyes open and no expression of being alive.

Some people say that these kinds of things happen to anyone in old age, but I always wonder if there is a causal relationship to radiation exposure.
Mr. Motoshima, former mayor of Nagasaki, is a senior graduate of my old school, Kyoto University, majoring in civil engineering. He was shot in the back by a rightist and almost died. Since then, he started to write in his hospital room. Upon the 50th anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, he appealed to the public for the value of peace and the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which caused a large number of cruel deaths and much destruction in our country. In the Peace Declaration (read on his behalf), he said, "In Nagasaki, even today, there are more than 64,000 A-bomb survivors living quietly while fighting poor health and old age. We should never forget, even for a moment, this painful sacrifice." Today, after twelve years, 250,000 A-bomb survivors in this country, with an average age of 75, are living in unimaginable fear with the pain of serious illnesses and their aftereffects.

I heard that Prime Minster Abe was ordering a review of the criteria for the A-bomb disease certification. Moreover, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare had organized a committee to propose draft certification criteria within the year. However, it seems that the effect of radiation on the human body has left behind much uncharted territory in the academic field. In his professional opinion, a famous doctor at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center, after examining various test results, suspects some kind of effect of radiation on diseases with unknown cause. However, under present conditions in the field of radiology, their causal relationship has not been scientifically proven. The committee continues to try to draw a line based on probabilistic theories of causation. Either way, no matter what comes of the certification criteria, I hope that its application will meet the patients' specific needs after considering the matter from their point of view.

When I first applied for the A-Bomb Survivor Health Book, it required at least two witnesses who had also been issued a Health Book. To me, the hurdle seemed too high. However, in recent years, it only requires one witness and objective evidence. So, to some extent, it seems to be improving. Considering the fact that it has been more than 62 years and there are even survivors living abroad, I strongly hope that the Health Department of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, with its final decision, will certify the A-bomb survivors with further flexibility.

Since this relates to the issue brought up before when I mentioned the "total elimination of nuclear weapons," needless to say, I mean the complete abolition of the atomic bomb. But at the same time, I am also concerned about the safety of nuclear reactors. We have witnessed tragedy when there were reactor accidents that caused terrible radioactive contamination at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Still to this day, there are many people who are suffering from health issues caused by radiation exposure. In our country, too, two lives were lost in the Tokai-mura JCO criticality accident [on September 30,1999].

When we think of the earth and its environmental issues, nuclear reactors seem necessary and indispensable. However, we should also remember how it compromises our safety. What happened in the Niigata Chuetsu-oki Earthquake in 2007 is still fresh in our memory. Although it did not develop into anything serious, the nuclear accident at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant reminded us of safety concerns in using nuclear reactors in case of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake. If a larger earthquake (with a seismic intensity of 7 or 8) hits an area with nuclear reactors, we would face a serious problem with radioactive water leakage and/or damage to in the reactor core. If that happens, one can easily imagine that it would be incomparable to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I strongly urge the government and electric power company officials to be prepared for the worst-case scenario and to reconsider safety measures for the use of nuclear reactors in case of a large earthquake. Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. is already carelessly saying that a nuclear reactor is safe even in an earthquake equivalent to two to three times the size of the Niigata earthquake. For a long time, I have been professionally involved in a field that relates to the earthquake resistance of buildings and structures such as bridges. As an expert, I sincerely hope that all relevant organizations will conduct adequate reviews and carefully consider safety measures. In my opinion, each reactor should resist not only the familiar, plate-type Tonankai-type earthquakes but also epicentral earthquakes, like what we experienced in Kobe during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake [in January 1995], and earthquakes that are dominated by short-period waves with a prominent acceleration of approximately 3000 Gal.[a unit of acceleration, 1 Gal=1cm/s2]

From what I have studied, the latest seismic design criteria require each nuclear reactor to correspond to the conditions of the neighboring active fault. It is supposed to ensure safety according to the time history response analysis for a scenario earthquake as well as for an expected response spectrum. Recently, the Atomic Energy Commission instructed design engineers to consider a seismic intensity of at least 6.5 to be prepared for cases where the active fault can't be identified for some reason, such as an elastic wave. We should note that the seismograph in Northridge near Los Angeles, California was recorded at 3000 Gal (three times the gravitational acceleration). Also, the Taiwan Chi-Chi Earthquake [in September 1999] experienced intense, short-period vertical ground motion that measured a seismic intensity of 6.5. For a building or bridge, it may be acceptable to believe that reinforcement work is complicated and troublesome, and even if something happens, one can escape liability if it's caused by a natural disaster. However, we should remember that this does not apply for nuclear reactors, since the radiation spreads over a wide area of many, many square kilometers.
(Previously published text received 2010)