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Contamination from nuclear test explosions is in every one of our bodies

October 24, 2016

[IPPNW co-president Tilman Ruff spoke in Melbourne on October 10 at the launch of a special issue of the International Review of the Red Cross on The human cost of nuclear weapons. The full text of his remarks is on the ICRC’s Humanitarian Law & Policy blog.]

by Tilman Ruff

I think that this special issue of the Review is, to date, the definitive history of the humanitarian initiative for nuclear disarmament, one that has changed the international discourse about nuclear weapons, bringing humanitarian considerations and imperatives to the heart of this matter – where they belong.

My piece titled “The humanitarian impacts and implications of nuclear test explosions in the Pacific region” addresses the health and environmental effects of nuclear test explosions in Australia, Christmas Island, French Polynesia and the Marshall Islands. There is not a lot written that brings this experience and evidence from across the Pacific region together in the current context. On behalf of many who have suffered, I am very grateful for the opportunity to share these stories with an international audience. The acute impact of the tests was severe, for military and civilian test workers and local people, and those downwind. The invisible, indiscriminate, radioactive contamination from nuclear test explosions is in every one of our bodies, continuing to damage DNA across generations.

The daily existential threat posed by nuclear weapons can seem abstract, distant, difficult to grasp, unable to be influenced and disconnected from ordinary life. It is the power of human stories that can break through this denial and sense of disconnection and powerlessness. For many – survivors of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; civilian and military people working at nuclear test sites around the world, and those in communities downstream and downwind; workers exposed to radiation and other toxins while producing nuclear weapons – nuclear weapons are not an abstract or distant threat but a lived reality of indiscriminate suffering and harm which continues. I want to pay tribute to the dedication and courage of the hibakusha and nuclear test explosions survivors who tell of pain and trauma that no human being should ever have endured, and work to ensure that no one else suffers as they have.

[Remarks in their entirety on Humanitarian Law & Policy blog]

“The contamination from nuclear test explosions is in every one of our bodies”

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