Hibakusha: Nuclear disaster brings new challenges for A-bomb survivors

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/features/news/20120813p2a00m0na023000c.html

Alongside its many consequences, the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster has brought new challenges for the survivors of the atomic bombings. Since the disaster, A-bomb survivors across Japan have faced requests to talk about nuclear plants. The office of the Tokyo Federation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations has also received email inquiries, asking where to go to get radiation exposure checked, among other questions.

“A-bomb survivors aren’t experts on radiation,” complained one member of the office. While suffering from the effects of radiation, many A-bomb survivors have had few opportunities to acquire knowledge about radiation.

Yet since the nuclear disaster, some survivors have been speaking out.

One A-bomb victim who has recently started speaking out about radiation is Kazumi Kato, 82. Kato was exposed to radiation from the Aug. 6, 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima while working at a shipyard as one of the many students mobilized in the war effort. For almost 30 years, he has spoken in Tokyo about his experiences, and he will go anywhere if asked. Most of the time, however, speaks at the request of peace organizations.

Kato volunteered for a project promoting the abolition of nuclear weapons, but turnout was low, and he wondered whether people were beginning to relegate the atomic bombings to history.

Then last July he was contacted by a local event organizer in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward to speak about radiation and his exposure to it. He hesitated as it was his first time to speak on that topic, but he finally accepted, reading books and newspapers beforehand and giving his speech while holding a notebook in which he had penned in the different types of radioactive materials.

In front of a display on the atomic bombings, Kato spoke to an audience of around 20 people.

“Do you know the difference between radiation from a nuclear plant disaster and radiation from a nuclear bomb explosion?” he asked the audience, who watched him with a seriousness he had not seen before. He became absorbed in the talk, which went over the allotted time.

Kato decided to go a step further and talk about nuclear power plants as well. For that, he needed to know more, such as about internal radiation exposure, which came up in reports on contaminated agricultural products and water after the Fukushima disaster.

Kato himself had drunk local well water and eaten local vegetables after the atomic bombing. Wondering whether this was what caused problems he has had with his kidneys and prostate, he went and asked experts, but was told there was not enough data to say.

“This is in spite of decades having passed, and medical science advancing,” says Kato, who angrily felt that the A-bomb survivors have not been given enough respect by the government.

At a local event, a woman said to him that she had never thought that there could be an A-bomb survivor in Shinjuku Ward. Kato, meanwhile, while living in the area that consumes the most power in Japan, had never realized how much he had depended on nuclear power. He felt, though, that now that people were anxious about radiation, they might turn their attention to efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, and he looks for opportunities to talk at such places as cafes and preschools.

It was 67 years ago, at age 15, while wandering near the Hiroshima blast hypocenter, that Kato saw five or six young men around his age, burned across their bodies. Looking for help, they climbed up an embankment, but collapsed after seeing the burned city around them. Unable to do anything, Kato left. He says he still vividly remembers the scene.

August 13, 2012(Mainichi Japan)

One Response to “Hibakusha: Nuclear disaster brings new challenges for A-bomb survivors”

  1. CaptD Says:

    RE: Kato himself had drunk local well water and eaten local vegetables after the atomic bombing. Wondering whether this was what caused problems he has had with his kidneys and prostate, he went and asked experts, but was told there was not enough data to say.

    “This is in spite of decades having passed, and medical science advancing,” says Kato, who angrily felt that the A-bomb survivors have not been given enough respect by the government.

    I agree, the Government is N☢T giving the Japanese people enough Respect!

    Liked and Tweeted…

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