Stories of Survival - the World Nuclear Survivors Forum

Dec 4, 2021

Peace Boat was honoured to host the World Nuclear Survivors Forum 2021 on December 2-3, in partnership with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

We were deeply honoured to deliver the testimonies and messages of over 30 nuclear survivors from five continents around the world to more than 1000 people. The stories and panel discussions are all available for viewing on demand via our website or Youtube here:

We express our deepest appreciation to all those who collaborated with us for this historic Forum, including both on the day and in the months of preparation and consultation in advance.

During the closing session, moderators from Parts One and Two shared their summary and reflections on the Forum, and we would like to introduce some of their words today.

First, from Dimity Hawkins of ICAN Australia:

"In Part One, we heard first from nuclear survivors whose lands are touch by broad nuclear projects. In the story telling we heard from First Nations and other people in Australia and Canada, Niger, India, the United States, Korea and Japan. And in the second part there was a panel from across the world, from the US, Pacific Islands, Russia, Maohi Nui, and Australia.


As always, in the coming together of survivors and their allies and representatives, we see the light going on – a recognition of their own stories in the stories of others, seeing they are not alone, that none of us are alone.

Panel 1 was a breaking of silences – deep silences driven by colonialism, Cold War secrecy, unequal power and nuclear racism. But we also saw the incredible determination and care for their peoples and places, and an understanding of the plight of others across the world facing these harms.

Across all these presentations, we see commonalities – Deep and abiding injuries from radiation and other nuclear exposures, often imposed on marginalised communities. They share stories of harm that stretch beyond lines on a map or false borders and through generations. They tell of how their communities are rendered almost as sacrifice zones, often with other nuclear projects – such as waste dumping – intensifying harm.

But compounding these harms are the silences imposed, the lies told, the limitations of access to information. We hear of the exclusion of survivors from the histories, the politics, the scientific and medical studies; as well as the records of the mining companies, militaries and governments who conduct these nuclear projects.

But importantly we also see something brilliant – the determination to continue to take a stand, to speak out, despite threats, deep grief and the almost overwhelming odds. And most incredibly, we see young people, new generations, taking up the stories, pushing back against the silences imposed, and reaching out to educate and to learn from the elders.

As we work towards the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, this Forum has reaffirmed that we must continue to meet and learn together and to break the silences."

Continuing on, Part 2 was summarised by Peace Boat's Karen Hallows:

"In the second stories, we heard from Kazakhstan, the Marshall Islands, Japan, Maohi Nui, China, and the voice of veterans.


Listening to the stories, to those who have been impacted by nuclear testing, you can see how this is not only about the suffering of individuals but of whole families, whole communities. This is because of the scale of the testing but also the unique nature of radiation - even impacting across generations. So survivors are suffering not only with their own health but also impacted by the ill-health or loss of other family members, friends, community members, and anxiety that their children or grandchildren will continue to suffer.

There is also a common theme of secrecy. We heard survivors say often “we didn’t know’ or, ‘no one told us” and that continues. The struggle for survivors is as much one for information, to know what happened to them and for that to be recognised. This theme of recognition, lack of information, exclusion, continued into the panel discussion.

There is also a determination to tell their stories, to educate people, their communities and the wider public, both in formal education (to bring the issue into school curricula) and informal education in forums like this one. And the determination to share deeply painful and personal experiences in order to educate others is something which really shone through."

Once again, we express our deep appreciation to the survivors who shared their painful and personal stories, to make the world aware of the impact of nuclear weapons. Peace Boat will continue to work with ICAN and other partners for recognition of the survivors, realisation of their rights and dignity, and implementation of the victim assistance and environmental remediation obligated under the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force this year.