Greenpeace activists receiving Peace Boat in Sydney.

From the Ship

Peace Boat and ICAN Collaborate to Ensure a Nuclear-Free World

Feb 26, 2018

The 96th Oceania Voyage is sailing extensively around Australia, where ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winner and a long-time partner of Peace Boat, was founded in 2007. During this voyage, Peace Boat has collaborated with ICAN to organize a series of events both onboard and in ports to raise awareness of the importance of nuclear abolition, and encourage both Australia and Japan to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Through a series of onboard lectures, Peace Boat and ICAN have educated participants about the devastating impact that the nuclear industry has had on society and ways to work towards a nuclear-free world. In partnership with other local and global organizations, this programme was organised as the "Making Waves" Speaking Tour, inviting people adversely affected by the nuclear industry from Japan and Australia, including Hibakusha from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nuclear test survivors from Australia, to share testimonies of their lived experiences and spread the message of the importance of nuclear abolition across five cities in Australia.

Since 2008, through the "Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World: Peace Boat Hibakusha Project," Peace Boat has invited over 170 Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to travel to 84 cities in 59 to raise awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons through their testimonies. For the 96th Oceania Voyage, Hibakusha bravely recounted the horrors and tragedy that they experienced during and after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings both onboard Peace Boat and across Australia. One Hibakusha, Miyake Nobuo, recalled how immediately following the Hiroshima bombing, victims were so badly burnt that they were jumping into the river to relieve themselves of pain, only to drown in the water. Another Hibakusha, Sugino Nobuko, shared how she has lived in fear of getting cancer after seeing her middle school classmate die of leukemia. Her fear was not unfounded- she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 40. Though the bombings were instant and brought a swift end to the war, they have inflicted lifelong and indescribable damage to the victims. It is important for people to hear these testimonies in order to understand the magnitude of destruction and suffering that nuclear weapons have caused.

In the aftermath of World War II, under the guise of national security, several countries engaged in nuclear testing, including the United Kingdom. In 1953, the British government conducted two nuclear tests in Emu Field, Australia. From 1956-1963, it conducted seven more nuclear tests in Maralinga, Australia. While these two locations were selected for their remoteness, the British government failed to take into consideration the Aboriginal communities who lived within close proximity to the testing sites. During a Peace Boat workshop in Adelaide, Australia, indigenous representatives shared how their family members became ill and perished as the testing sites and their surrounding areas turned into a radioactive waste land. In addition to the suffering that they have endured as a result of nuclear testing, Aboriginal communities have also been fighting to hold onto land that is rightfully theirs as the Australian government has been pushing for uranium mining and nuclear waste storage on their native lands.

Unfortunately, the nuclear agenda which the Australian government has been trying to advance has negative ramifications on a global scale. Australia currently exports one-third of the uranium used worldwide and this uranium was contained in the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, location of the disaster in Japan in March 2011. During the first leg of the Making Waves Speaking Tour in Fremantle, Australia, Hasegawa Kenichi, a dairy farmer from Iitate Village, an area that was evacuated due to radioactive contamination after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, discussed how ill-equipped the Japanese government was in handling the aftermath of the nuclear disaster. In order to decontaminate his property, appointed personnel merely used paper towels to wipe down the walls of his house and removed the top layer of his soil beds and placed them in garbage bags. These garbage bags have not been properly discarded and instead, have been stacked in giant heaps in his village. It is dangerous to rely on uranium to create nuclear energy when we, as a society, are unsure of what to do when disaster strikes. What is worse is that the byproducts of nuclear energy can be turned into atomic bombs.

Despite the pain and suffering that Hibakusha, members of indigenous communities and global Hibakusha have witnessed and endured as a result of the nuclear industry, Japan and Australia continue to claim to rely on the US "nuclear umbrella" for ther national security policy. As a result, both countries have yet to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted at the United Nations in 2017. Although some may feel discouraged, Peace Boat and ICAN view this as an impetus to continue providing outlets for victims of the nuclear industry to share their testimonies in order to raise collective awareness of the destructive nature of activities along the nuclear chain. Both organizations are deeply committed to seeing a nuclear-free world and will continue to work towards ensuring that all countries sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, including Japan and Australia.