After the Second World War, The United States and the Soviet Union found themselves engaged in a nuclear arms race, and thus in a cold war that would last half a century. It was on December 6th 1953 - at the heart of this Cold War - that American President Eisenhower proposed the adaptation of nuclear technology for peaceful ends. The courageous 'Atoms for Peace' initiative is the forefather of today's attempts to develop safe nuclear energy.
The war had transformed the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces into a pacifist. The 11 months of campaigning which had followed the D-day landings on June 6th 1944 had profoundly affected him, and resulted in a change of heart on a number of key issues. He had seen at first-hand how war can destroy cities, kill innocent civilians as well as military personnel, ruin economies and tear apart the foundations of civilisation. The spectre of what he saw in Europe would haunt him for the rest of his life. As President, he maintained the United States military budget at a minimum, and eloquently expressed his convictions at the inaugural address.
A testimony from Nagasaki's victims ...
"Everything was finished. Our mother land was defeated. Our university had collapsed and classrooms were reduced to ashes. We, one by one, were wounded and fell. The houses we lived in were burned down, the clothes we wore were blown up, and our families were either dead or injured. What are we going to say? We only whish to repeat this tragedy with the human race."
"We should use the principle of the atomic atom. Go forward in the research of atomic energy contributing to the progress of civilization. A misfortune will be then transformed to a good fortune. The world civilization will change with the utilization of atomic energy. If a new and fortunate world can be made, the souls of so many victims will rest in peace."
These sobering lines were written at the time of the bombing of Nagasaki by Dr. Takashi Nagai, a radiologist at Nagasaki University who was among the first to take part in the rescue operations. His words prefigured the reaction of the entire Japanese people. In the aftermath of one of the largest civilian massacres in history, one might have expected to hear words of despair, hatred and revenge. By contrast, these lines indicate a tremendous spirit of recovery, of peace, and of hope.
Transforming catastrophes into blessings, and constantly moving forward are characteristically Japanese traits. Indeed, no other country made a similar investment to the 'Atoms for Peace' programme. Over the past sixty years, however, the world has changed. The nuclear threat has been diminished but still remains. Eliminating this threat, fighting poverty, coping with climate change and ensuring sustainable development are all problems which a peaceful use of atomic technology can help to solve.
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