On the anniversary of Hiroshima, Japan debates the future of its nuclear plants


The ringing of a temple bell followed by a moment of silence.

This is how the ceremony began to mark the 68th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan, on Tuesday 6 August.

Approximately 50,000 people gathered before Hiroshima’s eternal flame, at the centre of the Peace Memorial Park.

Amongst them, survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates observed a minute’s silence at 8:15am, the exact time the US B-29 bomber “Enola Gay” dropped the atomic bomb in 1945, killing over 140,000 people and destroying everything around.

That same year, just three days later, a second atomic bombing in Nagasaki killed tens of thousands more and forced Japan to surrender to the World War II Allies.

A commitment to global disarmament came from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said that Japan has a duty to seek to wipe out nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima’s mayor, Kazumi Matsui, insisted on the need for a “peace declaration” and urged the national government “to rapidly develop and implement a responsible energy policy that places top priority on safety and the livelihoods of the people.”

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation, Rengo, rallied for the anniversary in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An ITUC delegation joined the rally.

“Along with our affiliates and the ITUC Asia-Pacific, we have been pressing in international fora, including the UN, for a world free of nuclear weapons and a just transition based on green jobs and production for peace” said Isabelle Hoferlin, ITUC officer.

Since the Fukushima accident in 2011, the Hiroshima anniversary represents an occasion to debate about restarting nuclear power plants.

PM Abe is in favour of restarting plants under new safety measures, while parts of Japanese public opinion are against the idea.

The 200,000 survivors of the Hiroshima bombing, so-called hibakusha, are strongly against any military and civil use of nuclear power.

The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) are also calling for the clashing of all 10 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants.

The Japan Council against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) commemorated the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, convening the 2013 World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs from 3 to 9 August, with the theme: “For a Nuclear Weapon-free, Peaceful and Just World”.

“Aiming to achieve a nuclear weapon free, peaceful and just world, people are raising their voices throughout Japan and across the world. Their voices must be increased and actions be taken to that end,” said the organisers.

Gensuikyo pointed out that three years ago 189 state parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) agreed on achieving “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” but the progress towards this goal is hampered by the nuclear weapon states upholding the “nuclear deterrence theory” and claiming that nuclear weapons are a “guarantee of security”.