Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors mark grim anniversary

Although some demonstrators in their 90s, protest marks 70th anniversary of US attack

File footage shows some of the key moments of World War Two in the Pacific, including the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Video: Reuters


Seventy years on and more than 10,000 miles away, a group of atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki are campaigning for a nuclear-free world in Brazil.

Some are in their 90s but they have stepped up their activities this year to mark the anniversary of the US attacks and to oppose the Brazilian government’s plans to more than double nuclear power generation.

The survivors – known in Japanese as hibakusha – were among a wave of migrants who left in search of a better life. There are now believed to be more than 1.5 million people of Japanese descent in Brazil – the biggest diaspora in the world.

More than 100 of them are registered survivors of the bombings on August 6th and 9th, 1945, a trauma that continues to define their identities despite the distance and the years.

Everything collapsed

Like many of his counterparts in Japan, he and other hibakusha formed a peace association dedicated to banning nuclear weapons and closing nuclear power plants.

In the 1970s and 1980s, both were a major concern in Brazil. The military dictatorship had launched an atomic weapons programme, starting with construction of two pressurised water reactors at Angra dos Reis in Rio de Janeiro state.

In 1987 fears about radiation peaked when a capsule of caesium 137 from a radiotherapy device was taken from an abandoned hospital and lead to widespread contamination and the death of at least four people.

The hibakusha have worked with victims’ groups of this and other contamination cases to raise public awareness of radiation risks posed by power plants, waste dumps, mines, factories, medical devices and mineral dumps. “Many people don’t know that radiation is so close to our lives. People must be aware of it, what radiations are and what kind of effect they have in our body,” said Junko Kosumo, a hibakusha who lives in São Paulo.

Brazil’s anti-nuclear campaigners claimed a victory in 1990, when the government renounced its nuclear weapon ambitions. They have also been relieved by long hold-ups in reactor construction plans. Today, Brazil still has only two nuclear reactors , which generate 3 per cent of its electricity.

Nuclear programme

Earlier this year energy minister Eduardo Braga said he was looking for private sector investment for another long-mooted plan to build four new nuclear plants.

– (Guardian service)