17 Décembre 2015
December 17, 2015
By MASATO TAINAKA/ Staff Writer
Residents who fell sick living near the facility that produced plutonium for the Nagasaki atomic bomb are seeking Japanese support for a campaign against an attraction in the United States that they say “glorifies” nuclear weapons.
The move by the group called Consequences of Radiation Exposure (CORE) follows the U.S. government's establishment on Nov. 10 of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park at three sites related to the development of the first atomic bombs used by the United States.
One of those sites is in Hanford, Washington state, which in 1945 produced the plutonium for the world's first nuclear test in Alamogordo, New Mexico, as well as in the bomb detonated over Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.
"The intended purpose of this new park was to glorify the science behind the atomic bomb," said Trisha Pritikin, 65, a founding member of CORE and a lawyer whose father worked as an engineer at the Hanford facility. "We are fighting an uphill battle."
One of CORE’s objectives is to collect donations to build a new museum in Seattle to focus on the negative consequences of the nuclear weapons development program and nuclear energy.
Tom Bailie, 68, a farmer near Hanford and CORE member, said: "Humans cannot co-exist with nuclear weapons or nuclear power plants. I want to build a museum with the people of Japan who are well aware of that."
CORE is comprised of people living near the Hanford site, like Bailie, who fell sick over the years, likely due to the radiation emitted from the facility.
Bailie has suffered from various health problems since childhood. At 18, he was diagnosed as being infertile. Family members have also died of cancer.
He has previously spoken to the media about what he calls "the death mile" near his home where there has been a high incidence of miscarriage, deformed babies, cancer and leukemia.
Bailie also appeared in the 2003 Japanese movie "Hibakusha--At the End of the World" about the survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as Iraqi victims of depleted uranium shells, directed by Hitomi Kamanaka.
After World War II, the Hanford facility produced enough weapons-grade plutonium for about 7,000 bombs the same size as the one dropped on Nagasaki.
In 1986, the U.S. Energy Department released 19,000 pages of confidential documents in response to a freedom-of-information request made by local residents.
According to the documents, an experiment called "Green-run" at the Hanford site in December 1949 intentionally emitted 740 terabecquerels of radioactive xenon-133 and 287 terabecquerels of iodine-131. One tera is 1 trillion bequerels.
The area around the Hanford site was also contaminated with various radioactive elements during the Cold War. Work to decontaminate the site continued from 1989 after the facility shut down, but 177 underground tanks store large volumes of highly radioactive waste liquids that have not been processed at all.
Those residents living near the facility call themselves "downwinders" because they developed cancer and thyroid problems likely caused by wind-borne radioactive elements from the Hanford site.
Pritikin's parents both died of thyroid cancer and she herself suffers from headaches and gastrointestinal and thyroid problems. She said radiation from the Hanford site "killed him (my father), my mom, and, maybe, eventually me."
Since 1990, about 5,000 individuals, including many downwinders, have filed lawsuits against the companies contracted with the Department of Energy. Pritikin was one of those litigants, but courts never acknowledged a causal relationship between radiation and health problems. Many of the plaintiffs died before a verdict was even handed down.
The B reactor at Hanford that produced the plutonium used in the Nagasaki bomb has already been opened as a museum to the public. It will likely become the main attraction for the national historical park that officials want to be complete in around 2020, with the other Manhattan Project sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The display at the Hanford B reactor now highlights the scientific achievements that gave birth to the nuclear age.
However, Norma Field, professor emeritus of East Asian studies at the University of Chicago who is also a CORE director, said other sides of the story should also be told.
"The history of the Manhattan Project cannot be passed off as a history of triumph. It is a history of widespread, continued suffering on the part of U.S. citizens," Field said.
"Hibakusha seeing themselves as part of a global history of exploitation and suffering through the CORE project would be an immense contribution."