Hiroshima remembered: 2,054 reasons why nuclear weapons still threaten us

6 Aug 2015

The Flame of Peace at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

On the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, have we really learned anything from the carnage that ensued and where do we stand with nuclear weapons today?

The searing blast that killed 80,000 people in the city of Hiroshima at 8.15am 70 years ago, and thousands more subsequently, is still seared in the memories of the Japanese people all these years later.

To mark the anniversary, almost 40,000 Japanese citizens attended an event at Peace Memorial Park where they heard echoes of the calls that have been made for decades for the disarmament of nuclear weapons in the 10 countries that possess them.

Following the dropping of the 15kt Little Man bomb on Hiroshima and the subsequent 20kt Fat Man bomb on Nagasaki, the Earth has somehow managed to avoid seeing the dropping of an atomic bomb in anger since.

However, since 1945, the planet has still been subjected to thousands of test detonations by the countries that have created their own weapons, 2,054 to be exact, at least until 1998.

Led largely by the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, the largest test came in 1961 with the now-infamous Tsar Bomba, or king of bombs, which had a yield of 50mt.

Hiroshima Tsar Bomba Dublin

The estimated blast radius of the Tsar Bomba over Dublin city centre. Screenshot via nuclearsecrecy.com

The blast, detonated in Arctic Russia, was so powerful that the mushroom cloud reached an equivalent height of seven times that of Mount Everest.

Despite threats from the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at that time of a 100mt bomb, plans for such a horrifying weapon were dismissed after it was determined that it would not only kill the pilots and crew, but create the equivalent of 25pc of the fallout of all nuclear weapons ever detonated.

To mark the 70th anniversary of one of the single greatest losses of life in human history, here is a fantastic video showing (nearly) all of the atomic weapons detonated on Earth over a 53 year period.

And yet, despite the Cold War officially ending, atomic weapon testing is still being done in secret by some of the smaller nations, most notably North Korea, but with a special mention for Israel, which still continues to deny that it possesses such weapons of mass destruction, contrary to expert opinion.

If there are positives to take from today’s nations’ stance on nuclear weapons it is that the world’s nuclear arsenal has dropped from its peak of 60,000-plus weapons in 1986 to just more than 15,000 today.

Speaking at today’s memorial in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, the city’s mayor, Kazumi Matsui, called on US President Barack Obama, in particular, to make a real call for total disarmament.

“President Obama and other policymakers, please come to the A-bombed cities, hear the survivors with your own ears, and encounter the reality of the atomic bombings. You will be impelled to start discussing a legal framework, including a nuclear weapons convention,” Matsui said.

The Flame of Peace at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park image via inefekt69/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic