On August 6, 2013, a peace bell was struck at 8:15 a.m., marking the moment the ‘Little Boy’ atomic bomb was dropped over the city of Hiroshima 68 years ago. However, rather than just a commemoration of the devastation that wiped out 90 percent of the city, killed 80,000 people immediately and killed tens of thousands more from radiation exposure later, this year’s anniversary served as a strong reminder that nuclear weapons still pose a threat across the world.
Japan To Sell Nuclear Power To India
Shortly after the bell rang, the mayor of the city, Mayor Kazumi Matsui, addressed the 50,000 people gathered to mark the anniversary. Matsui used his speech to rebuke the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was present at the ceremony, over its intention to sell Japanese nuclear power technology to India, one of four countries that have not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“The government’s ongoing negotiations may bring economic benefits to Japan and India, but they will hamper efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons,” said Mr. Matsui.
The mayor went on to criticize the Abe administration’s plans to examine the restarting of Japan’s nuclear reactors, almost all of which have been taken offline since the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011.
Anti-nuclear sentiment flared in Japan after an earthquake-sparked tsunami left some 19,000 dead or missing and knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant two years ago.
How can it be that nuclear weapons still exist? The heart of the explosion in Hiroshima reached a temperature of several million degrees centigrade, resulting in a heat flash over a wide area, vaporizing all human tissue. Within a half a mile radius of the center of the blast, every person was killed. By 1950, the death toll was over 200,000. Isn’t that enough to galvanize the world to never own or deploy nuclear weapons again?
18,000 Nuclear Weapons Still Exist
There are still an estimated 18,000 of these weapons in the arsenals of the nine nuclear countries. Many are constantly at the ready to be launched upon command from missile silos, from U.S. and Russian nuclear submarines, or on board planes poised to launch an attack.
The countries with the largest nuclear arsenals include: Russia, the United States, France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea (in order of the estimated arsenal size).
In addition, countries that are not officially recognized as being part of the nuclear club, such as Belgium, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands, deploy and store American nuclear weapons as part of NATO agreements.
In 1996, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was adopted by most nations including the United States; however, the U.S. and seven other countries have not yet ratified it.
No More Nuclear Weapons
By the time the bomb was ready for use, Japan was ready to surrender. As General Dwight Eisenhower said, “Japan was at that very moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of face. It was not necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”
So if Japan was ready to surrender, why were atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima (and then Nagasaki three days later, killing another 40,000 people)? Was it because the U.S. wanted to demonstrate its unique military power in order to gain political and diplomatic advantage over the Soviet Union in the postwar settlement in both Asia and Europe?
Japan still has more than 200,000 hibakusha (as the survivors of the atomic bombings are known), but their average age is almost 79; it’s worrying that memories of the horrors of war may be fading with them.
As time passes, we must not let this happen. As we reflect on Hiroshima 68 years later, we should recommit to nuclear disarmament to ensure that nuclear weapons will never again be used.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
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