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The Nagasaki-Hanford Bridge Project

Posted on: April 16th, 2018 by BWNWAdmin No Comments

The Nagasaki-Hanford Bridge Project was a conference held in Walla Walla in early March sponsored by Global Studies at Whitman College and Consequences of Radiation Exposure (CORE).  A special guest was a hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor) from Nagasaki, Mitsugi Moriguchi, who came to visit Hanford, where the plutonium was produced for Fat Man, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, killing over 70,000 people.  The focus of the conference was on cancer and other radiogenic diseases caused by exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons production, testing or use in warfare.  Speakers at the conference included a professor studying the radiation effects from the Fukushima disaster, a Hanford downwinder, Mr. Moriguchi, and a man who was in his mother’s womb when the bomb fell on Hiroshima.

A featured film was “Hibakusha at the End of the World”.  It begins in Iraq (before the 2nd war) looking at children who developed diseases from to exposure to depleted uranium.  Traveling to the Hanford area, the film examines victims exposed to plutonium production.   The film concludes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with interviews of hibakusha and doctors who monitored radiation health effects from the bombs, emphasizing how US doctors examined but did not treat victims in the aftermath of the bombing.

On the third day, the conference moved to the Richland area where Tom Baile, a lifelong farmer in the area, welcomed conference visitors to his farm.  He drove participants around the perimeter of his farm, on what he called the “Death Mile”, where in every house he could name at least one person who had become ill or who had died of cancer, leukemia, thyroid disease or  other afflictions associated with radiation exposure.

One stop was to Richland High School, home of the “Bombers”.  The name honors employees at Hanford who had donated one day’s pay to purchase a bomber for the war effort.  A picture of the bomber named “Day’s Pay” is on the side of the gymnasium.   But on the basketball court floor, there is a picture of a mushroom cloud.  This was distressing to Mr. Moriguchi; he said it was if people were walking over the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   On a more hopeful note, the principal of the school led the group on a tour of the school, ending in the library where there were artifacts from the war days.   Mr. Moriguchi gave the principal a book of testimonials of Nagasaki bombing victims, which Mr. Moriguchi helped collect and edit stories.  The principal said he would encourage students to read it.

On the final day, Mr. Moriguchi visited the Hanford reactor that produced the plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.  Although impressed by the technology that made the bomb possible, he lamented, “There was nothing — nothing about the suffering,” he said.

During the time of the conference, two articles appeared in the Richland newspaper about Hanford workers and the current nuclear power plant.   Washington just passed a law making it easier for the workers to receive compensation (how much easier is still to be seen).  And the Richland (Fukushima-type) nuclear power plant remains under federal scrutiny for safety reasons.  It continues to pose a danger to all downwind and downstream.  There is currently an effort underway to persuade EWEB to stop using power from the Richland facility.  Currently 7.5% of EWEB’s power is nuclear; it is more expensive than renewals and creates waste for which we have not yet found a satisfactory solution.

For more detailed newspaper coverage and photos

A. Rose

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