On 29th March, 2011, Hiroshima A-bomb survivor, Hashizume Bun, responded to the unfolding news of the Fukushima nuclear crisis by writing the following “Appeal to the People of Japan and the People of the World”
My name is Hashizume Bun and I am an A-bomb survivor of Hiroshima. I live in Tokyo and I am now 80 years old. When the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011, which triggered the crisis at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, I was in the midst of writing about the radiation exposure wrought by the atomic bombing of 66 years ago and about the lives of Hiroshima citizens before and after the blast.
Though much of my writing had already been completed, I was deeply pained by the accident involving the Fukushima nuclear plant and I felt that I would like to conclude my thoughts—and share this conclusion in English as well—from the vantage point of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, my hometown.
When the earthquake struck, I was in Tokyo; afterwards, I came to Hiroshima. When I reached the A-bombed city, it was late at night and I felt a heavy weight on my shoulders. It took a moment for me to take my first steps.
Every time I return to Hiroshima, I first visit the memorials standing in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and I speak to my family members, friends, acquaintances, and other victims who perished in the unimaginable horror of the atomic bombing. This time, however, I asked them to hear my wish, rather than my prayer.
On the day of the atomic bombing, I was exposed to the bomb’s radiation at a location 1.5 kilometers from the hypocenter. I was also injured severely, but I managed to survive the blast with the help of others.
After the war, I lived in a makeshift hut in the burned-out city and I suffered from acute symptoms of radiation exposure, including a high fever, bleeding from my gums, dreadful diarrhea, vomiting, purple spots that covered my body, and hair loss. It was a miracle that I again survived.
Since that time, right up to today, I have suffered from a series of illnesses and I have never enjoyed a single day of fine health.
Among the many illnesses, one has been particularly difficult. The symptom of this “A-bomb disease” is unbearable fatigue. I begged my doctor to make me feel fresh and light again, if only for a day, if only for an hour, but it did not happen. When I went to sleep at night, I prayed to God: “Don’t let me wake up tomorrow.”
All this poor health was caused by internal exposure to the bomb’s radiation. Once radioactive materials are ingested in the body through contaminated water, food, or air, these substances continue to be radioactive without end, destroying the body’s cells and damaging genes. This is a lifelong fate.
I did not know until my recent visit to Hiroshima that the substance called “Cesium,” which has been a familiar talking point of the media these days, damages the muscles and induces the awful “A-bomb disease.”
People who were doused by the black rain or entered the city to aid the relief efforts or search for the missing all became victims of internal exposure. And beyond the A-bomb survivors, those who have suffered nuclear tests or accidents at nuclear power plants are also victims of internal exposure to radiation.
Information about internal exposure to radiation has been hidden from the public for a long time. Since the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the expression “internal exposure to radiation” is finally being uttered, but no detailed explanations have been forthcoming. Revealing such information will make it difficult for the government to continue pursuing nuclear energy
Nuclear energy had once been praised as “clean energy,” even “ideal energy,” but this enthusiasm cooled somewhat after the accidents at the nuclear power plants at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. In recent years, however, many nations have been constructing nuclear power plants and the age has been dubbed a “renaissance” of nuclear energy. As I watched this phenomenon unfold, I couldn’t help but feel that one day, not far in the future, there would undoubtedly be another accident at a nuclear power plant somewhere in the world.
That accident has occurred in my own country, and the crippled nuclear plant is now continuously leaking a large volume of radioactive materials into the environment. There is no foolproof way to stop it, and no end to the crisis is in sight. In the small nation of Japan, which suffers from frequent earthquakes, more than 50 nuclear reactors have been built. These nuclear reactors loom mainly in depopulated areas, on sites within active earthquake zones.
The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake has compromised the six reactors at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Experts warn that further earthquakes of this magnitude—earthquakes that will strike in the vicinity of other nuclear power plants—will occur with 100% certainty in the none-too-distant future.
To the people of Japan, I ask: Will we simply accept the fact that Japan, the A-bombed nation, ultimately brings about a catastrophe of worldwide radiation exposure?
Time is of the essence. We must work together to halt the nuclear power plants now in operation. People of the world, join hands and speak out to stop the construction of any additional nuclear power plants, speak out to shut down every nuclear power plant on earth.
As an A-bomb survivor, I have long been opposed to nuclear energy in Japan and internationally. This is because I have feared not only nuclear bombs, but also the possibility that one day nuclear energy would destroy all life on the planet. Even operable nuclear power plants are continuously releasing small amounts of radioactive materials into the environment, contaminating the soil, the sea, and the sky. The danger of these small amounts of radioactive materials is being concealed, too.
Human beings are not the only living things. Is it not arrogance for human beings to sacrifice other living things simply for our own benefit? Would it not be wiser for human beings to seek harmony with nature? Humanity in the 20th and 21st centuries is offered only a moment in the long history of our species. That brief moment has been bequeathed by our ancestors, which we, in turn, bequeath to our descendants.
Like the A-bomb survivors, and the sufferers of nuclear tests and nuclear power plant accidents, the victims of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant will face suffering throughout their lives. The people displaced by the multiple disasters in eastern Japan are braving difficult days in shelters. But even amid such conditions, the children retain their innocence and hope and I am moved and find hope in them.
Radiation is especially damaging to children and their growth. Nevertheless, the Japanese government and electric power companies say they will persist in the construction of more nuclear power plants in Japan, in this small nation continually shaken by earthquakes.
Radiation respects no border. To save our children, the future of our species, I call on the people of Japan, and the people of the world, to stand together and oppose the continuation of nuclear energy.