Monday, May 28, 2012

Toro Energy, the terror of a nuclear future and the wisdom of Tsutomo Yamaguchi

Carbonized bodies face-down in the nuclear wasteland
all the Buddhas died,
and never heard what killed them.
Thinking of myself as a phoenix,
cling on until now.
But how painful they have been,
those twenty-four years past.
If there exists a GOD who protects
nuclear-free eternal peace
the blue earth won't perish.
Tsutomu Yamaguch, survivor of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 
(photo courtesy of Perth Now) 
The decision last week by the WA Environmental Protection Authority to approve the development of WA's first uranium mine means that this state is set to become a supplier of uranium to the powerful nuclear energy and nuclear weapons industry.  This is the first time in WA history that a recommendation has been made to support uranium mining and comes four years after the Barnett Government overturned its ban on uranium mining.

Toro Enery's proposal to mine uranium near Wiluna in WA's goldfields region makes a reality of  the Barnett Government's vision of making Western Australia a major supplier of uranium  to the nuclear energy and nuclear armaments industry. The EPA is assessing three other uranium mine applications in WA from BHP Billiton and Canada’s Mega Uranium and Cameco.

 Toro, who has no experience in mining uranium, plans to open-pit mine the Centipede and Lake Way uranium deposits and then truck the uranium oxide concentrate through the outskirts of Kalgoorlie and then to the WA and South Australia border. The mine is expected to produce around 1200 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate each year over a life of 14 years.

The powder product will then make its way to an Adelaide port, and be shipped out together with other uranium products from existing uranium mines, such as BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam.

As the WA Greens point out the EPA recommendation requires no specific conditions in terms of safety and radiation management,and sets a dangerously low standard for uranium mines.

Coincidentally, at the moment I am reading Craig Collie's riveting and shocking book Nagasaki: The Massacre of the Innocent and Unknowing, an eye witness history of the destruction and devastation caused by the dropping of the atomic bomb on the Japanese City of Nagasaki in August 1945. Collie's book is a reminder of the terrible reality of one possible "nuclear future".

Collie has crafted  a profound eye witness account- based on interviews, historical records and first person accounts- of the experiences of ordinary people in Nagasaki (and Hiroshima and Japan) at the time. The eye witness accounts  of the destruction and terror caused by the bomb in Nagasaki bomb are harrowing and shocking. They  describe the terrible suffering of ordinary people going about their daily lives.
One of those featured in Collie's book is Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a man who witnessed and survived both atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yamaguchi who died in 2010, was the only person recognized by the Japanese Government as an official survivor of both atomic bombings.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi  was in Hiroshima on a business trip when the first bomb dropped on 6 August 1945 and despite being badly burned he returned to his family in Nagasaki, over 180 miles away, where he arrived on the 8th August. He was in Nagasaki when the second atomic bomb was dropped  on the 9th August.

The effect on Yamaguchi and  his family was considerable. As well as almost total deafness in one ear, his skin wounds were bandaged for 12 years, and his wife was poisoned from the radioactive fall-out. She died in 2008, aged 88, of kidney and liver cancer. Their son, exposed to the Nagasaki radiation at six months old, died in 2005, aged 59.

Yamaguchi became a passionate anti-nuclear campaigner later in is life and gave talks about his experiences and often expressed the hope that nuclear weapons would be abolished: "I can't understand why the world cannot understand the agony of the nuclear bombs. How can they keep developing these weapons?".

He wrote poetry, books and songs about his experiences and appeared in a documentary, Nijuuhibaku, [Twice Bombed, Twice Survived], which was screened at the United Nations in New York in 2006, when he also addressed the UN, urging them to abolish nuclear weapons. A documentary. "Twice Bombed: The Legacy of Tsutomu Yamaguchi" has been made about his experience. 
In the vast Hiroshima
 Blazing and raging
 Dawn breaks and comes my way
 A human raft/
Charried by the river.
All men die
 Piled up and burned
Grease oozing out
 Spilled and spreading on the dirt
 Never to dry up
 If death is to come
 Peacefully my way
 What a pleasure it would be
 When the time to die is near
There is nothing but to die.
Tsutomu Yamaguchi
survivor of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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