Japan: 2011 International Peace Symposium focuses upon 'The Road to Abolishing Nuclear Weapons' Print E-mail

 August 7 2011

HIROSHIMA PEACE SYMPOSIUM: Experts call for nuclear disarmament

Clockwise from top left: George Perkovich, Tilman Ruff, Motoko Mekata and Kazumi Mizumoto (Photos by Takuya Isayama)

--Four experts made their cases for nuclear disarmament at the International Symposium for Peace 2011, held in Hiroshima on July 31.

The following are summaries of their opening remarks, which were abridged and reorganized by The Asahi Shimbun

The panel comprised of George Perkovich, vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Tilman Ruff, chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; Kazumi Mizumoto, vice president of Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City; and Motoko Mekata, professor at Chuo University.

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George Perkovich: Lincoln's struggle over slavery a lesson for nuclear age

I want to consider whether there might be some parallels between the struggle for the abolition of slavery and the struggle for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The parallel comes to mind not only because in English the same word--abolition--is used to describe both movements, but also because there is a moral dimension that is vital to both objectives.

The main problem in the abolition of slavery was that the vast majority of white people in the South and in the North did not want to live in equality with free black people.

This is similar to the nuclear situation today in much of the world.

Leaders in the United States, Russia, France, Pakistan, Israel and probably China feel that their citizens would feel too insecure to abolish nuclear weapons and to rely on other means to prevent adversaries from attacking them.

Slavery was abolished in a radical way, not in the peaceful incremental way that President Abraham Lincoln had originally sought. One million people were killed in the process of the war.

The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have unique wisdom to give to the rest of the world in this regard. The world has learned much from your pain and still has more to learn.

One way to begin building international confidence that security can be achieved without nuclear weapons is to show restraint in threatening to use these weapons.

No one knows the reality that lies behind the use of nuclear weapons better than citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This gives you distinct credibility in urging states that possess these weapons not to threaten to use them, and not to think or act as if their use would be anything less than a disaster for all of humanity.

George Perkovich is vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations' Task Force on U.S. Nuclear Policy and adviser to the International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament.

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Tilman Ruff: Fukushima not the last unless nuclear power is phased out

The ongoing nuclear disaster in Fukushima horribly compounds the devastating humanitarian tragedy of the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

It was a disaster waiting to happen--it was only a matter of time, and unless nuclear power is phased out, it will not be the last.

Fukushima showed that reactors and spent fuel ponds are both vulnerable not only to direct damage, but to loss of power, water and cooling.

This could occur through natural disasters, technical failure or human error, but also deliberate attack or disruption in a war or by terrorists.

Therefore, every nuclear reactor and spent fuel storage pond constitutes an enormous, prepositioned potential radiological weapon or "dirty bomb."

(A study on consequences of nuclear weapons) is a stark reminder of how intertwined are our fates, that there is no place to run or hide, that nuclear weapons anywhere threaten all our futures everywhere.

Any use of nuclear weapons is self-defeating, invites escalation, and tightens the noose of a grim shared fate.

Whether we succeed in eradicating the common enemy of nuclear weapons before they are again used is not in the lap of the gods or the laws of physics: it is in the hands of all of us alive today.

In the end, it is only governments that can abolish nuclear weapons. So it is in the governmental sphere that insistence must be felt.

Before the nuclear era, the great Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore wrote: "We will live in this world for as long as we love her."

Working for nuclear abolition is a profound and necessary act of love.

Tilman Ruff is chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. A researcher of the influence of nuclear weapons on public health, Ruff is Southeast Asia-Pacific vice president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

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Kazumi Mizumoto: Japan needs coherent nuclear-related policies

Japan has four nuclear-related policies: the three non-nuclear principles, the defense policy relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, promotion of peaceful use of nuclear energy (nuclear power generation) and the foreign policy for nuclear disarmament. They all have problems.

Behind Japan's non-nuclear policy, represented by the three principles of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan, lies the anti-nuclear consciousness among Japanese people, stemming from atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But it should be based on the risks of nuclear weapons, as demonstrated in a concrete and objective manner in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Civil society has long called for turning the three non-nuclear principles into legislation to make them legally binding. It is time to consider the proposal seriously.

If we try to have Japan withdraw from the U.S. nuclear umbrella, we must show that the country does not need U.S. nuclear deterrence to deal with threats it faces.

Hiroshima experienced the dangers involved in military use of nuclear energy, and Fukushima experienced the dangers involved in peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy, even if it is applied for peaceful use, exposes human beings to uncontrollable risks, depending on how it is handled.

Japan's foreign policy for nuclear disarmament has been shackled by contradictions in the other nuclear-related policies.

We need a wide-based national debate to orient the four policies into the same direction.

Kazumi Mizumoto is vice president of Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City. An expert on the Japanese government policy on nuclear disarmament, Mizumoto is a member of the Executive Council of the Japan Association of Disarmament Studies. Mizumoto, former chief of the Asahi Shimbun's Los Angeles Bureau, joined the institute in 1998.

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Motoko Mekata: Land mine treaty sets example for nuclear disarmament

An anti-personnel land mine is a small weapon that sits on one's palm. It can be purchased for as little as 300 yen ($3.76).

Anti-personnel land mines have taken the lives of children and civilians who do not possess arms, instead of soldiers.

Critics began calling for a ban in the 1980s because tragedies continued even after conflicts ended.

Citizens have established a new value--of prohibiting anti-personnel land mines--in society.

A treaty was concluded through collaboration between nongovernmental organizations and governments of Canada and other countries that support their stance.

The process of negotiations that resulted in the treaty opened a new era in which governments and nongovernmental organizations work together.

The end of the Cold War was a key factor that contributed to that process.

After we experienced the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the viewpoint to judge what is realistic and what is not has substantially changed.

When we call for lowering dependence on nuclear power generation eventually to zero, people would say we should not talk about ideals and should have cool-headed discussions.

Japan suffered the damages caused by nuclear energy in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima. We must have the courage to say we fear what we fear and raise our voices.

The public must send out a message and continue to apply pressure on the government to carry out nuclear disarmament.

Motoko Mekata is a professor at Chuo University's Faculty of Policy Studies. She serves as a member of the Steering Committee of the Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines and a member of the Executive Council of the Japan Association of Disarmament Studies. She is a researcher of nonprofit organizations and an author of several books.

HIROSHIMA PEACE SYMPOSIUM: Fukushima disaster should trigger nuclear disarmament


From right, Motoko Mekata, Kazumi Mizumoto, Tilman Ruff and George Perkovich at the International Symposium for Peace 2011 in Hiroshima on July 31. At left is Asahi Shimbun editorial writer Toshiaki Miura, who served as coordinator. (Takuya Isayama)

HIROSHIMA--The crisis at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has driven home the need to accelerate nuclear disarmament, experts told a recent symposium here in the city that felt the power and the horrors of the world's first atomic bombing.

Civilian use of nuclear energy, or nuclear power generation, can be as dangerous as its military applications, or nuclear weapons, panelists said at the International Symposium for Peace 2011, held at the International Conference Center Hiroshima on July 31.

"Whatever its source, the harm to health of ionizing radiation is the same. The same chain reaction drives nuclear fission in reactors and bombs," said Tilman Ruff, who chairs the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. "Releases of radioactivity similar to or larger than those from a nuclear bomb can come from nuclear reactors and spent fuel ponds."

Kazumi Mizumoto, vice president of Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City, said the Fukushima disaster should not be seen as an accident at a single nuclear power plant but as a case that exposed the risks inherent in the entire system of nuclear power generation.

"Japan uses uranium fuel at 54 nuclear power reactors, stores spent nuclear fuel in storage pools and (plans to) dispose of radioactive waste at a final disposal site," Mizumoto said. "All the processes involve risks, and all the processes are subject to human errors. If an error does occur, risks are enormous."

Experts also said civilian use of nuclear energy is often a source of suspicions about military use.

Japan, which is pushing the nuclear fuel recycling program, or extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for use in fast breeder reactors, is not an exception.

"Japan has continued to accumulate plutonium, which has raised doubts in the international community that it is actually seeking to use nuclear energy for military applications," Mizumoto said. "Japan has adhered to a suspected system."

Ruff said: "Japan is the only state without nuclear weapons to be amassing a large stockpile of separated plutonium: a nuclear arsenal in waiting."

Motoko Mekata, professor at Chuo University's Faculty of Policy Studies, said the risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons increases sharply if nuclear fuel recycling spreads.

"Japan should take the initiative and withdraw from the nuclear fuel recycling program at a time when many other countries hope to carry out nuclear fuel recycling," Mekata said.

About 700 people attended the symposium, titled "The Road to Abolition--What Civil Society Needs to Do Now." The annual symposium, held in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, was the 17th.

It was hosted by Hiroshima city, the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation and The Asahi Shimbun, and supported by Nagasaki city, the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace, Hiroshima Home Television Co. and Nagasaki Culture Telecasting Corp.

Asahi Shimbun editorial writer Toshiaki Miura served as coordinator for the panel discussion.

Experts said a global movement toward nuclear disarmament has made little progress since U.S. President Barack Obama pledged that the United States will work toward "a world without nuclear weapons" in a speech in Prague in April 2009.

The Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament has long failed to start meaningful negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, designed to stop production of highly enriched uranium or plutonium for nuclear weapons, bound by its rules of consensus.

"One country can stop the negotiation from beginning," George Perkovich, vice president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said. "Pakistan has for a number of years wanted to block this negotiation. Many people believe that China is not unhappy with Pakistan blocking this negotiation."

Experts said the conventions that prohibit anti-personnel land mines and cluster munitions, for which a small group of "middle power" countries and nongovernmental organizations laid the foundations, can offer lessons for nuclear disarmament.

Negotiations that culminated in the land mine ban treaty are called the Ottawa Process after Canada, one of the prime movers, while those that resulted in the cluster bomb ban treaty are known as the Oslo Process after Norway.

Mekata, who has been involved in an international campaign to ban land mines, proposed starting a "Hiroshima Process" to push for a Negative Security Assurance Treaty.

Under the treaty, a nuclear power would guarantee that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers that are signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Mekata also suggested that a group of countries, including Japan, start a new round of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, apart from the Conference on Disarmament.

Negotiations on prohibiting land mines or cluster bombs started as part of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Advocates set up separate forums outside the United Nations after the discussions reached a stalemate due to opposition from major powers.

"Why don't we apply the start-where-we-can approach to nuclear disarmament, without bothering about countries that are opposed?" Mekata asked.

Major powers, such as the United States, Russia and China, have not signed the land mine ban treaty, which took effect in 1999, or the cluster bomb ban treaty, which went into force in 2010.

But Ruff said an important aspect of the two treaties is that they have even influenced the behavior of those opponents.

"Land mines have become unacceptable," Ruff said. "There is no country, including those who are not signatories to the Ottawa Treaty, that exports land mines."

Ruff said the two treaties are "inspiring examples of civil society collaborating with international organizations and a couple of determined governments (that changed) the argument from a military and strategic one of these arcane concepts that bear no relationship to what happens when you use the weapons to a humanitarian debate. I think that is what we desperately need with nuclear weapons."

Experts said civil society has a crucial role to play in lobbying governments to act and pressing financial institutions to divest from companies that manufacture nuclear weapons.

Mekata said Japan's megabanks decided to refrain from doing business with companies that manufacture cluster bombs following pressure from citizens.

"It is important to become 'nagging' citizens who raise their voices against what they oppose and what they doubt through local politicians or media," Mekata said.

Perkovich said Obama's goal of a world without nuclear weapons has met significant resistance both in the United States and in other major powers.

Referring to the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia, which took effect in February, Perkovich said, "It is a fairly minimal, not a very ambitious, treaty, but it was actually very hard to get ratified in the U.S. Senate."

Perkovich said Obama has not received support from other major countries that he needs to make progress toward his goal.

"Everyone applauded, but then no one stepped up to say, 'I'm a head of a major country and I will work with you.' (Countries such as) Brazil and South Africa applauded but have gone off to do other things," he said.

"This is a problem, and it's hard for civil society to overcome when there is not leadership in other countries that want to work strongly with someone like Obama."

An ultimate goal is to conclude a Nuclear Weapons Convention to prohibit nuclear weapons, which has been pushed by nongovernmental organizations.

The final document adopted at the NPT review conference in May 2010 for the first time included a reference to the convention. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on member states to start negotiations on the treaty.

"Everything that was wrong with chemical and biological weapons, land mines and cluster munitions is worse with nuclear weapons," Ruff said. "It simply is inconsistent that we don't have a comprehensive framework for the worst and most indiscriminate and inhumane weapons."
 Saturday, August 6, 2011

Old and new nuclear perils

August 6 and 9 are the days on which Japanese pray for the souls of those who died due to the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, and renew our resolve to seek a world without nuclear weapons.

But a new dimension has been added to this year's atomic bombing anniversaries. The disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has made the risk of radiation exposure all too real to many people.

For Japan, this poses a very significant question: Can humans coexist with nuclear power?

In the past, voices speaking out against nuclear power generation were hardly heard among those people involved in the cause against anti-nuclear weapons. Perhaps one reason is that both the victims of the atomic bombings and the anti-nuclear weapons activists placed hope in the idea of using nuclear fission solely for peaceful purposes.

Recent media reports have revealed that the United States, following President Dwight Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" speech in the United Nations in 1953, pushed a policy of supplying nuclear power technology to Japan to contain Japanese opposition to nuclear weapons and anti-U.S. sentiment.

Anti-U.S. sentiment, in particular, soared in the wake of the March 1, 1954, incident in which the Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon) No. 5, a fishing boat, was irradiated by nuclear fallout from the test of a U.S. hydrogen bomb explosion in the Bikini Atoll. One crew member died of radiation poisoning about six months later.

Although Japan has 53 nuclear power reactors, sentiment toward nuclear power in the anti-nuclear weapons movement shifted in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

The Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo) urged the government to drop a plan to build new nuclear power plants and to decommission existing nuclear power plants one by one ­ a drastic change in its stance.

The Japan Congress Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikin), at its Fukushima meeting on July 31, called for phasing out nuclear power generation.

And the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) plans to discuss the issue of nuclear power.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki's mayors will refrain from directly calling for the phasing out of nuclear power in their respective Aug. 6 and 9 peace declarations.

Nevertheless, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui will call on the government to change its energy policy immediately, citing an opinion calling for such a phaseout as well an opinion calling for strict management of nuclear power plants and promotion of renewable energy resources,

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Tanoue will call for the development of renewable energy sources and the building of a society based on safe energy. Although neither mayor is directly demanding the abolition of nuclear power, it is clear that both harbor strong apprehensions about it.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings killed an estimated 140,000 people and 74,000 people, respectively, by the end of 1945.

Thankfully the Fukushima nuclear accident will not reap such a toll, but there can be no downplaying its effects. The disaster has forced more than 100,000 residents living near the nuclear power plant to be evacuated, and many radioactive hot spots have been found even in distant places.

Because soil in the areas surrounding the plant is contaminated with radioactive substances, there exists a strong possibility that they will be uninhabitable for many years, meaning that some evacuees may be unable to return to their homes.

The situation inside the Fukushima No. 1 compounds remains extremely grave. Radiation levels exceeding a lethal 10 sieverts per hour were discovered at two hot spots near the plant's No. 1 reactor earlier this week ­ the highest level of radiation measured since the March 11 disaster.

To put this figure in perspective, it is estimated that radioactive contamination registering 11.1 sieverts per hour existed in areas 700 meters from ground zero following the Hiroshima atomic bombing. Human exposure to 4 sieverts per hour can cause extremely severe radiation poisoning that will result in death if proper treatment is not given.

The radiation hot spots in the compounds were reportedly caused by radioactive substances that were released while venting was being carried out to lower the pressure inside reactors' containment vessels. Similar high levels of radiation are expected to be detected in other spots, especially near the No. 3 reactor, which used mixed oxide uranium-plutonium fuel.

On July 27, professor Tatsuhiko Kodama, head of both the Radioisotope Center at the University of Tokyo and the university's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, told the Lower House's Health, Labor and Welfare Committee that the Radioisotope Center's calculation shows that the amount of radioactive materials released from the Fukushima No. 1 plant has amounted to 29.6 times that released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In uranium equivalent, it is 20 times the amount released by the Hiroshima bomb.

Given these facts, only a fool would underestimate the severity of the Fukushima nuclear fiasco. Prime Minister Naoto Kan must strive to reach a consensus among his Cabinet members on the need to phase out nuclear power, and then persuade all parties concerned to take action.

Meanwhile, the National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Energy Department announced July 19 on its website that the U.S. carried out subcritical nuclear tests at a Nevada underground test site on Dec. 1, 2010, and Feb. 2, 2011.

It is most regrettable that the Obama administration, which has been calling for a world without nuclear weapons, allowed these tests to be conducted. Such activities may be taken as a sign that the U.S. is not serious about nuclear disarmament.