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By Kathy Collett

From Summer 2017 Forum

In March Dr. Sue Wareham, Vice President of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) and Vice President of ICAN Australia, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons gave a talk in Perth, Australia of which I attended

Ironically, when she gave the talk she said, "It is a talk about a subject which has lapsed from public awareness over recent decades", however as we know, there have since been escalating tensions between North Korea and the USA resulting in a lot of media coverage.

She got involved with working for nuclear weapons abolition over 35 years ago and added that there has been no other weapons that come close to causing the death and destruction caused by a single nuclear weapon.

The following are extracts taken of her speech:
We know that ionizing radiation can alter DNA; this has been consistently confirmed in plant and animal experiments. The genetic damage can lead to the development of cancers. Young children are more vulnerable to the effects of radiation exposure than adults because their cells are turning over more rapidly.

These weapons have been used twice. A single nuclear weapon was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan on 6th August, 1945 and a second one on Nagasaki on 9th August. Those were extremely small weapons by today's standards and yet, at Hiroshima approximately 80,000 people died immediately and by the end of 1945 the death toll was 140,000.

In Nagasaki 40,000 people died immediately and by the end of the year 70,000. So as a result of these two weapons, over 200,000 people died within a five-month period.

After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, there were elevated results of all solid cancers and most leukemias. The latency period for leukemias was 5-8 years average and for solid cancers 15-60 years and the cancer rates are still elevated.

A study in 1991 estimated that the radioactive fallout caused by the atmospheric nuclear tests that have occurred will eventually lead to 2.4 million cancer deaths worldwide, most of them in the northern hemisphere. During the 1950s in Australia, the government of the day allowed the UK to conduct tests in South Australia and Western Australia which caused extensive radioactive fallout including over cities. Those at highest radiation exposure risk were local Aboriginal people and pastoralists. Official fallout measurements were incomplete and concealed from the public and, in many cases, from the government. In Western Australia there were three tests at the Monte Bello Islands in 1952 and 1956.

So how many nuclear weapons are there in the world? Currently there are approximately 15,000 in the hands of nine countries. The vast majority belonging to the USA and Russia.

Russia 7,000
USA 6,800
France 300
China 260
UK 215
India 110-120
Pakistan 120-130
Israel 80
North Korea 10

Our danger is greater than it has been for decades. Some of you will be familiar with the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which has been an indicator since 1947 of our closeness to global catastrophe, particularly in relation to nuclear weapons. In January of this year the hands were advanced from three minutes to two and a half minutes to midnight, the closest they have been to midnight since 1953 in the very early days of the cold war.

The last four years have seen huge progress globally towards achieving a nuclear weapons ban treaty. In 2013 and 2014 there were three intergovernmental conferences held in Norway, Mexico and Austria to examine the Humanitarian Impacts of these weapons.

In August 2015, the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association passed a resolution in favor of the banning and elimination of nuclear weapons and also played an effective role in securing a similar resolution from the World Medical Association in October 2015.

The above is the main thrust of her talk and, coincidentally, since then the Australian Federal Government has acknowledged the damage done to those affected by the nuclear tests conducted by the British Government. They will now allocate a veterans' medical healthcare Gold Card to indigenous people who were near the sites in Western Australia and South Australia. Although some are no longer alive, one man who was a child during the tests in October 1953 said he “went blind in one eye straight away and four years later I went totally blind" and added "we all got sick, vomiting and diarrhea and developed sore eyes and skin rashes"

For years Senator Scott Ludlam has campaigned on behalf of people affected and said "the move is way overdue. They have suffered inordinately. They were effectively bombed off their land with nuclear tests by a friendly power in the 1950s and 1960s and have been substantially neglected.” Senator Ludlam has been mentioned in previous editions of The National Forum for his support for people with ME/CFIDS and continues to raise questions regarding poor funding of the illness in Australia. He will be going to New York soon and I believe he will be there for the United Nations continuing discussions to ban nuclear weapons.

Ed. Note: Kathy is an NCF member from Australia.

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