Thursday, April 7, 2011

Some Thoughts on Japan's Nuclear Crisis

In August 1945, the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic bombs. The immediate aftermath was devastating: tens of thousands dead, miles of buildings reduced to ash, massive spikes in radiation. But the suffering wasn’t over. The atomic bombs detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki would continue to claim victims for years to come, causing leukemia and other serious radiation-related illnesses in those exposed to the fallout.

Now, over sixty years later, Japan faces another nuclear disaster: the catastrophic failure of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The events unfolding at the Fukushima facility are being called the worst nuclear accident in Japanese history, and it is widely feared that the radiation leaking from the damaged reactors will create a public health crisis. As the situation at Fukushima goes from bad to worse, we are left with a number of questions: How many people will be exposed to radiation? How many will become ill or die? How far will the escaped radioactive materials travel? How can we prevent this kind of accident in the future? Our answers, unfortunately, may be a long time in coming.

The tragedies at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and now Fukushima serve as powerful reminders of the destructive potential of nuclear technology. As Downwinders, our clients are keenly aware of this potential. They know that the effects of nuclear explosions—be they attacks, accidents, or tests—are long-lasting and widespread. And they understand the human cost of nuclear fallout not through news reports or photographs, but through personal experience.

So what can we take away from all this? For those of us who work with victims of the nuclear testing, two things seem especially clear: we must work to make nuclear technology safer, and we must fight to secure compensation for the victims of nuclear fallout.

We encourage you to join us in this fight. As Downwinders, you have a unique ability to raise awareness and advocate for change. As always, we ask that you contact your representatives in Congress. Voice your concerns. Share your experiences. Insist on justice.

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