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Rebooting memories of life before the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima

20 March 2023Peace and Security

A Japanese initiative to colourize photos of Hiroshima survivors, taken before the war, has been hailed by the UN as a way to breathe new life into conversations about peace, and a world without nuclear weapons.

Only a few survivors of the World War Two Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings are still alive to share their memories. Acutely aware that she is part of the last generation to be able to talk directly to the hibakusha – those who survived the Hiroshima nuclear bomb – Anju Niwata, a young Japanese peace activist born and raised in Hiroshima, launched a project called “Rebooting Memories”, which involves colourizing photos taken in the city before the war, featuring survivors, and the families and places lost in the bombing.

Ms. Niwata uses a combination of software and interviews with survivors to accurately bring colour to the black and white photos she borrows from the survivors. “The black and white photos may appear lifeless, static, and frozen to us”, she says.

“By colourizing the photos, however, the frozen time and memories of the peaceful lives before the bombing gradually advance and start breathing. It takes a long time, but I am always encouraged by the hibakusha’s joy at seeing the colour photos.

Her efforts have been warmly welcomed by the hibakusha, who played a big part in helping people around the world to understand the devastating impact of nuclear weapons, in the years following the Second World War.

Tokuso Hamai was evacuated from Hiroshima when he was two-years-old, before the bombing. All of his family members were killed. As part of Ms. Niwata’s project, he went with her to the site of the barber shop that his father used to run, in Hiroshima’s Nakajima district.

Today, any remains of the shop, and the buildings around it, have disappeared, buried under the Peace Park built to commemorate the tragic event, and remember the victims.

Standing at the site, and looking at the colour photographs, sparked Mr. Hamai’s memories of pre-War Hiroshima. “I recalled what I had forgotten”, he says. “If the photos were black and white, this would not have happened. What I recalled first was a green avenue of cedars. I remember picking cedar buds as bullets for a toy gun.”

Ms. Niwata’s aim of reviving awareness of the consequences of nuclear war is wholeheartedly supported by Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN Under-Secretary-General of Disarmament Affairs, who is herself Japanese.

“Disarmament is part of the DNA of the United Nations. The first General Assembly session took place in London, just a few months after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The shock of the nuclear bombings made a huge impact on everyone in the world at the time.

“Since then, it’s been part of a priority agenda of the United Nations and it is even more important today because we are again in a dangerous world where conflicts and tensions are on the rise. There are some 13,000 nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals, relations between nuclear weapons states are tense. This poses existential threats, and I think it’s important that people start to imagine the impact if they are ever used.

I think Ms. Niwata’s project will have an enormous impact. if you can visualize how things were, it enters your imagination more vividly, and will do something to your mind and then your heart.”

When she took part in the SDG Global Festival of Action, a UN event filled with dozens of inspiring speakers from around the world, Ms. Niwata was encouraged to see that she was far from the only young activist working towards peace, each using different methods to achieve the same goal. “It is my mission to continue spreading the thoughts and memories of the atomic bomb survivors into the future and realize a world free from nuclear weapons”.

  • In 2019, a General Assembly resolution, “Youth, Disarmament, and Non-proliferation”, reaffirmed the important and positive contribution that young people can make in sustaining peace and security.
  • That same year, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) launched the #Youth4Disarmament outreach initiative, recognizing that young people like Ms. Niwata play a critical role in raising awareness and developing new ways to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms.
  • The initiative connects geographically diverse young people with experts to learn about current international security challenges, the work of the United Nations, and how to actively participate.

March 21, 2023 Posted by | culture and arts, Japan | Leave a comment

Nuclear-powered submarines a ‘terrible decision’ which will make Australia ‘less safe – Australian Greens

Nuclear-powered submarines a ‘terrible decision’ which will make Australia ‘less safe’

Greens leader Adam Bandt has raised concerns over Australia’s acquisition of technology for nuclear-powered submarines from the US and UK, calling it a “terrible decision” which will make “our country less safe”.

While there have been no serious incidences with the UK and US nuclear-powered submarines in their history, Mr Bandt pointed out New Zealand will not allow the nuclear vessels in their waters.

“Australia will be writing a blank cheque, we will be spending untold billions on a fleet of floating Chernobyls,” Mr Bandt told Sky News Australia.

Mr Bandt said Australia was buying “a nuclear reactor in a box” and noted if the US decides to change the technology or withhold support, “we are at their mercy”.

“It’s really concerning the Prime Minister is calling this ‘a forever partnership’, because it means if another Donald Trump comes back in the United States, we are now … a small arm of their nuclear capacity.”

September 19, 2021 Posted by | culture and arts, politics international | Leave a comment

“Unqualified” —who is allowed to talk about nuclear power ?

Who is allowed to talk about nuclear power?

“Unqualified” — Beyond Nuclear International Nuclear trolls turn on the aggression as industry collapses around them  

By Linda Pentz Gunter, 31 May 21, “My advice is to look out for engineers. They begin with sewing machines and end up with nuclear bombs.” Marcel Pagnol
My normal rule of thumb is to ignore the unrelenting pro-nuclear trolls who pepper our sites with incessant nay-saying and, occasionally ad hominem name-calling. After all, they have only one goal in mind — other than to get up one’s nose — which is to dominate and thereby control the narrative.
But recently, a recurring theme has emerged which needs addressing, because it speaks to who is allowed to talk about nuclear power.

In the view of the trolls, if you have no scientific credentials, you are unqualified to comment on nuclear power. In my case, because I have a degree in English literature, albeit garnered many decades ago, I have, according to the trolls, no authority to expound on the negatives of nuclear anything.

There are some rather obvious flaws in this argument, the first being that it pre-supposes the human brain is incapable of learning anything new after the age of 21. 

But it also exemplifies the theme of a recent conference held virtually in Linz by three Austrian anti-nuclear groups which examined the “Atomic Lie.” How has this lie been perpetuated? Answer: by those who promote the nuclear power industry anointing themselves as the only authority deemed knowledgeable enough to either comment about it or make decisions on its use and safety.

What kind of a world we will end up with if, heaven forfend, we allow only engineers to decide what is in our best interest (with all due respect to my friends who are engineers and who, I suspect, would be the first to agree)? Hence the Pagnol quote at the top of this page.

This would mean, for example, that the Western Shoshone should have no say in the fate of the land in Nevada they steward, because nuclear engineers have decided it is perfectly alright to dig a big hole in the volcanic ground and bury nuclear waste there.

It would mean that Marshall Islanders should have nothing whatever to say about the generations of cancers and birth defects they have suffered as the unwilling guinea-pigs of atomic “testing,” because after all it was scientists who decided that it was perfectly alright to detonate 67 atomic bombs there and obliterate islands………..

This intent to dominate the narrative — in our case the nuclear power one — and silence critics, was aptly described by Arnie Gundersen in his presentation during the Linz conference. He talked about the origins of the nuclear cabal — under its alias, Atoms for Peace — in which its originator, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, described the program as solving “‘the fearful atomic dilemma’ by finding some way in which the ‘miraculous inventiveness of man’ ‘would not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life’”.

Gundersen looked up the Oxford Dictionary definition of “consecrate” and found it to mean “to make sacred or declare sacred; dedicate formally to a religious or divine purpose.”

This nuclear priesthood into which believers were ordained did not welcome skeptics gladly, however. Quite the reverse. When Gundersen, a nuclear insider at the time, blew the whistle on a safety issue, he was told to his face that “in this business, you’re either with us or against us, and you just crossed the line.” He was not only fired but persecuted in further attempts to silence him.

Luckily for our movement, the nuclear inquisition was largely unsuccessful in this latter endeavor, but it came at a steep price for Gundersen and his family personally.

As evidenced by Gundersen’s experience, these attacks are by no means restricted to us “lay” advocates, but they have grown observably more vitriolic. This disturbing trend was flagged recently by Andy Stirling of the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex in the UK, responding to an aggressive critique of an article he co-authored in Nature Energy.

His detractor, Jeremy Gordon, “goes beyond pejorative labelling to actively ridicule any position not in-principle supportive of nuclear power,” Stirling wrote in a letter published in Nuclear Engineering International. “This is exemplified by Gordon’s intemperate ad hominem attack on my fellow author (the globally leading energy scholar Benjamin Sovacool).” Stirling concludes that it is “reasoned policy discourse that forms the lifeblood of democracy itself”.

We are a grand collective of experts. We do have scientists and engineers —Gundersen is one — to whom we can turn in order to unravel the deeper complexities of the workings of nuclear power plants or uranium mines or reprocessing facilities. But it is not the only dimension that matters. So we need Indigenous people, and writers, and lay advocates, and economists, and historians, and artists, and humanitarians to tell this story and set the agenda, too. 

Even if it is rocket science, rocket scientists aren’t the only ones who count when decisions are made about whether to put missiles into space or send a nuclear-powered probe to Mars.

As Pagnol implied, when you leave it to the scientists and engineers, you get a Manhattan Project, where consciences pricked far too late. Imagine if humanitarian voices had held sway inside Los Alamos. Would things have turned out differently?

The Japanese mothers, evacuated from Fukushima, who shout on street corners through bullhorns about their experiences, warning Japan never to re-embrace nuclear power, don’t hold engineering degrees. But they know a lot more about the real, lived consequences of using nuclear power than any of the nuclear industry trolls.

Those voices of truth need to be heard, along with those who practice sound science and honest engineering and who are willing to call out the dangers, not control the lies.

It’s one thing to have command of the facts, which of course we must. But it’s another to accompany these with a hefty dose of integrity. And that’s what we are here for, even if we can quote Shakespeare while we are doing it.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear and writes for, curates and edits Beyond Nuclear International.

June 1, 2021 Posted by | culture and arts, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

The motivation of climate denial groups

Climate deniers want to protect the status quo that made them rich
Sceptics prefer to reject regulations to combat global warming and remain indifferent to the havoc it will wreak on future generations ,
Guardian,  John Gibbons, 22 Sept 17   From my vantage point outside the glass doors, the sea of grey hair and balding pates had the appearance of a golf society event or an active retirement group. Instead, it was the inaugural meeting of Ireland’s first climate denial group, the self-styled Irish Climate Science Forum (ICSF) in Dublin in May. All media were barred from attending.

Its guest speaker was the retired physicist and noted US climate contrarian, Richard Lindzen. His jeremiad against the “narrative of hysteria” on climate change was lapped up by an audience largely composed of male engineers and meteorologists – mostly retired. This demographic profile of attendees at climate denier meetings has been replicated in London, Washington and elsewhere.

How many people in the room had children or indeed grandchildren, I wondered. Could an audience of experienced, intelligent people really be this blithely indifferent to the devastating impacts that unmitigated climate change will wreak on the world their progeny must inhabit? These same ageing contrarians doubtless insure their homes, put on their seatbelts, check smoke alarms and fret about cholesterol levels.

Why then, when it comes to assessing the greatest threat the world has ever faced and when presented with the most overwhelming scientific consensus on any issue in the modern era, does this caution desert them? Are they prepared quite literally to bet their children’s lives on the faux optimism being peddled by contrarians?

“We have been repeatedly asked: ‘Don’t you want to leave a better Earth for your grandchildren,’” quipped the comedian and talk show host John Oliver. “And we’ve all collectively responded: ‘Ah, fuck ’em!’” This would be a lot funnier were it not so close to the bone.

Climate Change (Abbreviated): Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Short-termism and self-interest is part of the answer. A 2012 study in Nature Climate Change presented evidence of “how remarkably well-equipped ordinary individuals are to discern which stances towards scientific information secure their personal interests”.

This is surely only half the explanation. A 2007 study by Kahan et al on risk perception identified “atypically high levels of technological and environmental risk acceptance among white males”. An earlier paper teased out a similar point: “Perhaps white males see less risk in the world because they create, manage, control and benefit from so much of it.” Others, who have not enjoyed such an armchair ride in life, report far higher levels of risk aversion…….

Facing up to climate change also means confronting the uncomfortable reality that the growth-based economic and political models on which we depend may be built on sand. In some, especially the “winners” in the current economic system, this realisation can trigger an angry backlash.

This at last began to make sense of these elderly engineers crowding into hotel rooms to engage in the pleasant and no doubt emotionally rewarding group delusion of imagining climate change to be some vast liberal hoax.

In truth, the arguments hawked around by elderly white male climate deniers like Fred Singer, William Happer and Nigel Lawson among others are intellectually threadbare, pockmarked with contradictions and offer little more than a cherry-picked parody of how science actually operates. Yet this is catnip for those who choose to be deceived.

It is, however, deeply unfair to tar all elderly white men as reckless and egotistical; notable exceptions include the celebrated naturalist David Attenborough……

A century after elderly military leaders cheerfully sent millions of young men from the trenches to their slaughter in the first world war, the defiant mood of today’s climate deniers is best captured by the stirring words of Blackadder’s General Melchett: “If nothing else works, a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through!”

September 23, 2017 Posted by | climate change, culture and arts, psychology - mental health | Leave a comment

Hanford nuclear site – a rich source of comedy for John Oliver

Hanford becomes comical punching bag for HBO’s John Oliver, The Spokesman REview, Aug. 21, 2017,  Thomas Clouse  Just days after Energy Secretary Rick Perry made his first trip to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, HBO’s John Oliver used the polluted nuclear site as a satirical punching bag for the nation’s decades of failure to find a permanent storage solution for the millions of gallons of nuclear waste.In the Sunday episode of “Last week Tonight with John Oliver,” the comic pointed out that the U.S. government has failed to create a permanent repository for nuclear waste since the National Academy of Sciences suggested the idea in 1957.

Instead, Oliver pointed out that most nuclear plants around the country continue to store spent fuel rods even though those facilities were not designed to compile the nuclear waste.

“The most frightening example of this is the Hanford site in Washington state which created two-thirds of the plutonium in the U.S. arsenal and is currently storing 56 million gallons of highly toxic and nuclear waste underground,” Oliver said.

He then ripped a local news broadcast that called Hanford the most contaminated place in the Western Hemisphere.

“Oh it’s right here. We did it guys. Washington state,” Oliver said. “Home to the most contaminated place in the Western Hemisphere. Thousands of acres of apple orchards and several of Ted Bundy’s grisliest murders. We did it right here.”

Between the gibes, Oliver mentioned the continued health risks at Hanford, including a recent plutonium leak, and criticized officials for the design of a tunnel that collapsed on May 9. Some of the wooden timbers gave way in the tunnel, which exposed highly contaminated machinery…..

We’ve been saying that we were going to fix this for decades now and we seem to be no closer to a solution,” Oliver said. “We are dancing with trouble here. So if anyone says the government can just continue to wait, they are much like a house without a toilet, absolutely full of …”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

August 23, 2017 Posted by | culture and arts, USA | Leave a comment

China’s culture, and the fear of speaking out on environmental concerns

Why Environmental Activists Are Afraid to Speak Out, , Feng YongfengFeb 21, 2017 In 2007, soon after I founded an organization called “Nature University,” I ran a program for those with an interest in conservation — both experts and amateurs alike. I took them walking along Beijing’s waterways every Saturday, and each time, we saw foul water pouring directly into the streams and rivers. “We are environmental activists,” some of our shocked volunteers said. “We shouldn’t just look on and do nothing.”

Nature University is a Beijing-based virtual community school for sharing information about environmental protection. We mainly target volunteers and nongovernmental organizations in our campaigns. Back in 2007, our big idea was to launch a photo event encouraging people to send in pictures of Beijing’s sewage outlets, which we would then forward on to the authorities to create a dialogue with them about water pollution.

Hardly anybody responded to our call for submissions. When the time for action arrived, I was left wondering where all the once-vocal critics had gone. In my opinion, they failed to overcome the deep-seated fear of speaking out — a fear passed down from generation to generation. People were afraid that if they reported severe pollution in the area, their families or friends might become targets for retribution by those responsible, such as factory bosses or owners.

Fear of playing a role in public affairs is rooted in many people’s upbringings. From a young age, Chinese parents constantly warn their children that only grave misfortune will come of stepping into the public domain and challenging the powers that be, citing examples from ancient history in which those who made enemies of such people were executed, their accomplices exiled, and their family and friends mistreated. This mindset leads many environmental activists to gag themselves. Activities like crowdfunding, agenda-sharing, photographing contamination sites, lodging official complaints, and speaking out on social media all suffer under this mentality.

Sometimes, activists treat all stakeholders in a pollution event — from coal mine owners to managers, from local officials to the most menial workers — as enemies to be held in the utmost contempt. As their fear turns to anger, they make themselves more foes than friends, and therefore find more problems than solutions. Everyone involved in the disaster becomes a symbol of the fear they feel, and thus everyone becomes an antagonist in the fight for real change. It is hardly surprising that many of the projects organized by environmental activists are stymied by infighting before they truly get off the ground.

Environmental activists are at war with pollution, but fear of the transgressors keeps us too daunted to act. Ingrained self-denial makes us reluctant to pursue meaningful endeavors and keeps us locked in constant equivocation. Therein lies China’s dilemma: Very few people are happy about pollution, but even fewer are willing to act decisively against it. The only way to publicly escalate the issue is to stay mentally strong and argue based on the facts we have. Blots on China’s environmental landscape cast shadows over a large portion of the population. It is in the public interest to fight pollution, but we are too worried about ramifications for individuals when we should be worried about the collective good.

We must exorcise our collective malaise if we are to save our environment. If you suspect that a factory is acting irresponsibly in limiting pollution, do something about it. Find out about what it produces, the technical details of its product, and the national laws requiring it to protect its surroundings. If you find inconsistencies in any of these areas, report them.

Make your voice heard through social media and crowdfunding. Be encouraged by small but meaningful signs of progress. Day by day, week by week, a concerted public effort can and will reshape the environment around us, provided we can muster a groundswell of support. With these tools, we can overcome fear. The only real thing we should fear is our own apathy and lack of ambition when it comes to social and environmental justice.

A workshop I attended at the prestigious Peking University last December convinced me of this. At the end of the event, a student asked, “What is the greatest challenge facing China’s environmentalist groups today?” I expected the answer to be something rather banal, like a shortage of funding, labor, or knowhow. Instead, the speaker — the secretary general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, Zhou Jinfeng — gave a much more refreshing response: “Now is the best time for environmental groups to make their mark in China, because no other country in the world has more environmental disasters going unchecked. Environmental groups, activists, and volunteers will have an impact in China so long as they put their words into actions. So why are so many of you sitting around watching?”

Ingrained self-denial makes us reluctant to pursue meaningful endeavors and keeps us locked in constant equivocation. Therein lies China’s dilemma: Very few people are happy about pollution, but even fewer are willing to act decisively against it. The only way to publicly escalate the issue is to stay mentally strong and argue based on the facts we have. Blots on China’s environmental landscape cast shadows over a large portion of the population. It is in the public interest to fight pollution, but we are too worried about ramifications for individuals when we should be worried about the collective good.

Perpetrators of ecological disasters are far more vulnerable than most people think. From the moment when a pollution event occurs, those responsible for it live in fear of the judgment — both official and unofficial — against them. Yet to capitalize on this weakness in those who ravage the land, sea, and air, environmental crusaders must be brave. Even just a few soldiers fighting valiantly on the front lines can turn the tide of battle and inspire the public to put aside its fear of jumping into the fray.

February 22, 2017 Posted by | China, culture and arts | Leave a comment

Toxic debates like the hinkley nuclear one need social science input

text-humanitiesby opening up this kind of wider discussion, social science can undertake its trickiest – but arguably most useful – task in any controversy. The stakes in this particular case transcend nuclear debates alone – and raise questions about the overall health of British democracy.

Hinkley C shows the value of social science in the most toxic public debates

Social science can help explain why people disagree over controversial technologies and – most importantly – surface hidden assumptions, Guardian,  and Phil Johnstone, 24 Oct 16,  t’s been another turbulent month in the long-running saga over the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Having looked as if she might be contemplating a rethink, Theresa May unveiled an apparently decisive approval just before the Conservative Party conference. But with longstanding issues still unaddressed– and new problems emerging even since the PM’s announcement – the debate over Hinkley is far from over…….

Social science can provide a better understanding of why different perspectives disagree – and help (when possible) to identify common ground. Hard-pressed policymakers often find it useful to understand how to foster trust, confidence and “acceptance” of their institutions and procedures.

For powerful interests in any setting, social research can also play a useful role in helping to justify, present or implement favoured policies. Here, social science can be part of the closing down of debate – helpfully enabling political attention to move on.

But what if, on deeper reflection, powerfully-backed policies are a bad idea (perhaps as with the Hinkley decision? History is replete with examples – like asbestos, heavy metals, carcinogenic pesticides, chlorine bleaches, toxic solvents and ozone depleting chemicals – where it only emerged in retrospect that the pictures being given of “sound science” or the “evidence base” at the time were unduly shaped by vested interests or constrained imaginations.

It is here that social science can play a further crucial role: helping to open up policy debates where they are being prematurely “locked-in”. This focuses less on society as a target for policymaking, and more on the processes of policymaking themselves. The production and interpretation of evidence is, after all, as much a social phenomenon as public attitudes or political mobilisation.

It is a striking feature of the Hinkley example that even the government’s own evidence base is strikingly damning. The assessment of value for money itself acknowledges Hinkley C to be more expensive than other low carbon energy strategies. And the picture in other official sources is even more negativeWith nuclear costs rising and renewable costs falling – and a worldwide turn towards wind and solar power – global trends compound the picture.

With the UK enjoying the best renewable energy resource in Europe and holding a competitive advantage in offshore industries, industrial policy arguments are also manifestly stronger for renewables. The same applies to prospective jobsCompared to nuclear safety and security challenges, renewables are less vulnerable. And simplistic “baseload” arguments are shown by numerous official reports to be superseded by technology – and repudiated even by the National Grid. So the officially-stated reasons for nuclear enthusiasm simply don’t stack up………

our research suggests there is a further – seriously neglected – factor that may underlie the intense attachment of successive UK governments to civil nuclear power. This involves parallel UK commitments to maintain nuclear submarine capabilities. Without the cover provided by lower-tier contracts in civil nuclear construction, the diminished UK nuclear manufacturing sector would simply not be able to build these formidable technological artefacts. Nor could they easily be operated without civil infrastructures for nuclear research, design, training, maintenance and regulation.

So a consequence of withdrawing from nuclear power might also be very serious for a particular version of British identity – especially in the coming post-Brexit era. It is nuclear military prowess that supposedly allows the UK to “punch above its weight” on the world stage. Yet, although this rationale for continued UK nuclear commitments is clearly documented on the military side, it is unmentioned anywhere in official civil nuclear policy statements – and in energy debates more widely.

What this might mean for policy is a moot point. But by opening up this kind of wider discussion, social science can undertake its trickiest – but arguably most useful – task in any controversy. The stakes in this particular case transcend nuclear debates alone – and raise questions about the overall health of British democracy.

Phil Johnstone is a research fellow and Andy Stirling is a professor of science and technology policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex.

October 31, 2016 Posted by | culture and arts, UK | Leave a comment