Scientists and nuclear experts from around the world gathered in southwestern Japan on Sunday to push for the abolition of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, with this year marking the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of Japanese cities.
Nagasaki, one of the two cities devastated by an atomic bomb at the end of World War II, is hosting for the first time the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, which originated from calls for such a meeting from eminent scientists such as Albert Einstein about 60 years ago.
With the momentum toward nuclear disarmament seen to have suffered a setback after a U.N. conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ended in failure in May, organizers hope once again to call attention to the inhumane nature of nuclear arms and encourage dialogue in a world plagued with conflicts.
The five-day international conference, which is the 61st of its kind, brings together nearly 200 participants from about 40 countries, including U.S. and Russian officials and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, according to the organizers.
On Sunday morning, participants met at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum with Yoshiro Yamawaki, 81, an atomic bomb survivor, to hear firsthand about the horrors of nuclear weapons.
Topics to be discussed at the conference include the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, paths toward a world free of nuclear weapons and risks involved in the civilian use of nuclear energy in light of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
A declaration will be released on the final day of the event. Some sessions are open to the public, including a speech by Osamu Shimomura, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2008. He was in a city adjacent to Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped.
The Pugwash Conference takes its name from the location of the first meeting in 1957 in the village of Pugwash in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The stimulus for that gathering was a manifesto issued in July 1955 by British philosopher Bertrand Russell and Einstein that called upon scientists of all political persuasions to assemble to discuss the threat posed by the advent of nuclear weapons.
The Pugwash group won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, with its movement praised for serving as a channel of communication between the communist Eastern bloc and Western democracies during the Cold War and diminishing the part played by nuclear arms in international politics.
The Pugwash conference was held twice in Hiroshima in 1995 and 2005.
The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and the second on Nagasaki three days later. Around 210,000 people are estimated to have died from the attacks by the end of 1945. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15 that year, bringing World War II to an end.