Part 1: Nuclear Weapons Seen from the Perspective of the Damage Caused by the Atomic Bombings
1. Radiation Exposure and Subsequent Suffering Caused by the Atomic Bombings
On July 16, 1945, the first nuclear test in human history generated a nuclear fission reaction at the Alamogordo Test Range in the desert of New Mexico, USA. Three weeks later, on August 6, and again three days later, on August 9, nuclear weapons exploded in the skies above the inhabited cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The splitting of atoms began a chain reaction, the center of which became a high-temperature, high-pressure plasma reaching millions of degrees Celsius and millions of atmospheres. This formed a fireball, which after one second had a radius of 150m and a temperature at the surface of 5,000 degrees Celsius. A man-made sun had appeared a few hundred meters above the heads of the people below.
The expansion under super high-pressure of the fireball caused a shock wave that travelled much faster than the speed of sound, flattening buildings in an instant. A raging wind followed the shock wave as if it were chasing it. Five hundred meters from the hypocenter, the wind speed was a phenomenal 280 m/s. As a result, within a matter of 10 seconds the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were obliterated.
Extreme heat rays burnt deep into people's skin, so that it peeled from the flesh. The force of the blast blew eyes out of sockets. It blew the people about like leaves, bashing them against anything in the way. Skin hanging down, eyes dangling, dripping blood and other bodily fluids, they wandered around aimlessly crying for help. The rivers of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were clogged with countless corpses. In that instant, the people had no idea what had struck them. The fires caused by the heat rays devoured anyone who was buried alive beneath flattened buildings. Survivors fled, each for themselves, treading over corpses as they went. Children abandoned parents and in some cases parents even abandoned their own children.
The atomic bombs did not just destroy the cities in fiery infernos. Even before the people saw the light from the atomic blast, radiation released from the center of the fireball penetrated their bodies and turned the cities radioactive. Mushroom clouds filled with radioactive material assailed the cities, dropping black rain on the people below. Knowing nothing of this, people entered the radioactively contaminated cities to save the burnt and injured inhabitants. Physical changes appeared in those who were not injured at the time of the explosion and in rescuers who entered from outside the cities. They became afraid of this unknown phenomenon, calling it "gas".
The atomic bombs killed people indiscriminately and continued to cause suffering even after the war ended. Keloids, leukemia, cataracts, cancer and a whole host of other medical conditions have afflicted the atomic survivors (Hibakusha) physically. In addition to their physical sufferings, the Hibakusha have also suffered mentally in all sorts of areas of their lives: in love and in marriage, in pregnancy and in childbirth, in study and in work. All these things still torment and kill those who survived the atomic bombings.
2. Lawsuits for Certification of Atomic Bomb-Related Sickness
At the instigation of Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hidankyo), lawsuits for certification of atomic bomb sickness were launched in 2003. Lawsuits were initiated in courts throughout Japan by a total of over 300 plaintiffs and lawyers from each region linked up nationally to support the lawsuits.
The joint suits challenged the government's scientific position. The government's position was that damage caused by exposure to radiation from the atomic bombs was restricted to people who were within a 2-kilometer radius of the hypocenter and who were exposed to high levels of radiation from the initial explosion. It maintained that the medical effects of radiation exposure were limited to cancers (including leukemia) and cataracts.
In the first place, the government claimed that residual radiation from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had almost no impact. In other words, it claimed that because the bombs exploded high above Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fireball did not reach ground level, there was extremely little induced radioactivity and the radioactive fallout was dispersed. The government also denied the existence of internal radiation exposure from residual radioactivity. However, the government's position was clearly at odds with the actual experience of the Hibakusha. It is recognized that people who were exposed far from the hypocenter and people who entered the cities after the bombings experienced loss of hair, purpura (purple spots), diarrhea and other symptoms of acute radiation disease. In the face of these facts, the courts did not accept the government's argument that radiation effects were only incurred from exposure at close range at the time of the atomic bombings.
Also, before the lawsuits were submitted the government only recognized a very limited range of conditions, such as cancer, as being radiation-induced. However, the continued ill health of the Hibakusha and the results of scientific research, including from long-term epidemiological studies, clearly showed that exposure to radiation produced long-term suffering and caused a wide range of conditions besides cancer and malignant tumors.
These facts clearly demonstrate that the use of nuclear weapons is illegal under international law.
3. The Illegality of Nuclear Weapons
The fact that nuclear weapons used for the purpose of killing and wounding people do so indiscriminately, not distinguishing between combatants and civilians, is clear from the description in section 1 above of the killing and wounding caused by the relatively small nuclear weapons used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
However, if, unlike in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons were exploded close to the ground for their military effect, or even more so, if they were used as ground penetrating weapons, much larger quantities of induced radioactivity and radioactive fallout would be produced than was the case in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This would inflict widespread environmental contamination and lasting effects from the associated long-term residual radiation.
In view of these facts, any use of nuclear weapons would cause unnecessary suffering and would not be consistent with purely military objectives. Hence, the use of nuclear weapons could never be permitted under international humanitarian law.
4. The Hibakusha's Cry for Nuclear Abolition
We Japanese lawyers came into contact with Hibakusha through the lawsuit for recognition of a-bomb diseases. After speaking of their experience of the atomic bombing, some of the Hibakusha vomited and could not get out of bed. The time of the bombing had been erased from the memories of quite a few of them. One of the Hibakusha said that he was shocked when the Korean War started. The reason was that he had believed that after the atomic bombings there would be no more wars. He said that he was afraid to turn on the lights of his house at night.
Moreover, just to admit to being a Hibakusha exposed people to prejudice. Nevertheless, through their appeal for "no more Hiroshimas, no more Nagasakis, no more Hibakusha" the Hibakusha have prevented a third nuclear attack. The people who survived the hell of the atomic bombings and who have lived to this day believe that it is their responsibility to continue to make this appeal.
Biological and chemical weapons have been banned. Now the possession of biological and chemical weapons and dependence on them for national security is vilified. It is a disgrace, not an honor. Why is this not the case for nuclear weapons? Based on their own experience, the Hibakusha have warned that depending on nuclear weapons is a path to human extinction. Now, as we face the danger of nuclear proliferation, and before the Hibakusha are no longer able to speak of their experience, at this NPT Review Conference, we should make clear the path to nuclear abolition.
Part 2: Charting a Path to Nuclear Abolition
1. Set a Date for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
Viewed from a human perspective, nuclear weapons are legally and ethically a totally unacceptable class of weapon. We must establish as an international norm the principle that "no one is entitled to possess nuclear weapons" and make this norm legally binding. For this purpose, it is necessary to establish a date by which nuclear weapons will be abolished and generate a situation in which all sorts of cooperative activities can be undertaken between governments and civil society.
To this end, we demand that the Nuclear Weapons Convention discussed below be brought into force by 2020, while Hibakusha are still living.
2. Work for and Negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention
In order to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons, a path to nuclear abolition and a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) to comprehensively outlaw nuclear weapons are necessary. As pointed out in UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's October 2008 "five point plan", a NWC is one of the top priority issues for a nuclear free world and it deserves serious consideration. Comprehensive consideration does not conflict with the existing step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Rather it supplements and strengthens it. In particular, in order to bring nuclear disarmament to completion, measures to increase the effectiveness of NPT Article 6 have an extremely important place within the total context.
As pointed out by the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), it is necessary to "develop and build support for the comprehensive legal regime that will need to accompany the final move to elimination" (ICNND Report, p. 200) and "Work should commence now on further refining and developing the concepts in the model Nuclear Weapons Convention now in circulation" (ICNND Report, Recommendation 73).
Multilateral negotiations for a NWC should commence by 2015 and a NWC should be brought into force by 2020.
3. Establishing and Reconfirming the Norm Against the Use of Nuclear Weapons
Since the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons have not been used in war. However, the danger of nuclear proliferation exists and the danger of nuclear terrorism is increasing. Under these circumstances, there is a great need for the establishment of an international norm against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. To this end, consideration should be given to measures such as the adoption of a resolution by the UN Security Council prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons, and the establishment of a provision in the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute stating that the use of nuclear weapons is an international crime.
4. Negative Security Assurances and Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, especially in North-East Asia
In addition, as a confidence-building measure, the role of nuclear weapons should be greatly reduced. We demand that all nuclear weapon states declare that the sole purpose of their nuclear weapons is to deter other nuclear weapons and make no first use declarations.
At the same time, all nuclear weapon states should make a legally binding agreement with non nuclear weapon states, including with allies of nuclear weapon states, that they will not use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon states (negative security assurance). In conjunction with these agreements, efforts should be made to expand the coverage of nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ). NWFZ agreements should include an undertaking from non nuclear weapon states that they will not possess or produce nuclear weapons, an undertaking from nuclear weapon states that they will not bring nuclear weapons into non nuclear weapon states, and provisions to verify these undertakings.