Who are the Hibakusha?
There are still people alive today who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In Japanese, the atomic bomb survivors are called: HIBAKUSHA (hee, ba, coo, sha). Many Hibakusha have dedicated their lives to peace and although they are growing old, they continue to work for nuclear disarmament. They tell their stories in order to help people understand the true reality of nuclear weapons. It is a rare opportunity and an important responsibility to learn about the effects of nuclear weapons by listening to Hibakusha testimonies.
From 1942 to 1945, an international team of scientists, funded by the US government, developed the world’s first nuclear weapons. This top-secret program was called The Manhattan Project. Through this project three atomic bombs were made, costing the US taxpayer 2 billion dollars. After a successful test explosion on July 16th 1945, the remaining two nuclear weapons were flown to Tinian Island to prepare for their use against the Japanese.
On August 6th 1945 at 8:15 AM, the nuclear bomb code-named “Little Boy” was exploded over the city of Hiroshima. Three days later, at 11:02 AM on August 9th 1945, a second nuclear bomb, code named “Fat Man”, was exploded over the city of Nagasaki. These new and incredibly powerful weapons had never before been used in war and several Manhattan Project scientists were opposed to their use on civilian populations. In the 64 years since then there have been nuclear test explosions that have displaced communities and caused radioactive contamination that have harmed people and the environment, but nuclear weapons have not been used again in wartime.
Why It Matters
Today, approximately 26,000 nuclear weapons owned by 9 nations remain a threat to all life on earth. Nuclear weapons are unique, and are not at all like conventional bombs. These ‘weapons’ cause destruction through the splitting of the atom, which creates tremendous power, called nuclear fission.
The primary effects of a nuclear explosion include blast, heat, fire and radiation, producing destruction on an unimaginable scale. Immense light and thermal heat comparable to the interior of the sun initiate a phenomenon called a firestorm. Firestorms deplete oxygen from the environment and create hurricane-like winds which attract debris and feed the storm itself, causing super-infernos. No living being can survive a firestorm. Another and much-disregarded effect of nuclear weaponry is long-lived radiation. Once released, radioactive elements can hang around for millennia upon millennia, putting future generations at risk of developing cancer and genetic mutations.