66th Anniversary of the Hiroshima Bombing
Aug. 6 and 9 are the days on which Japanese pray for the souls of those who died due to the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, and renew our resolve to seek a world without nuclear weapons.
But a new dimension has been added to this year's atomic bombing anniversaries. The disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has made the risk of radiation exposure all too real to many people.
The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings killed an estimated 140,000 people and 74,000 people, respectively, by the end of 1945.
Thankfully the Fukushima nuclear accident will not reap such a toll, but there can be no downplaying its effects. The disaster has forced more than 100,000 residents living near the nuclear power plant to be evacuated, and many radioactive hot spots have been found even in distant places.
Because soil in the areas surrounding the plant is contaminated with radioactive substances, there exists a strong possibility that they will be uninhabitable for many years, meaning that some evacuees may be unable to return to their homes.
The situation inside the Fukushima No. 1 compounds remains extremely grave. Radiation levels exceeding a lethal 10 sieverts per hour were discovered at two hot spots near the plant's No. 1 reactor earlier this week — the highest level of radiation measured since the March 11 disaster.
To put this figure in perspective, it is estimated that radioactive contamination registering 11.1 sieverts per hour existed in areas 700 meters from ground zero following the Hiroshima atomic bombing. Human exposure to 4 sieverts per hour can cause extremely severe radiation poisoning that will result in death if proper treatment is not given.