Seventy Years After Hiroshima: Conceptualizing Nuclear Issues in Global Context

Country: Canada

City: Edmonton

Abstr. due: 15.03.2016

Dates: 18.09.15 — 19.09.15

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: Prince Takamado Japan Centre University of Alberta


Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this conference explores the legacy of atomic bombs and the invention of civilian nuclear power in Japan and the world. It discusses the significance of historic lessons and contemplates the misuse of the atom as a weapon and a diplomatic tool and much more neutral use as energy source from a non-partisan point of view. With the passing of generations, the memories associated with Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and with the Cold War are fading both in Japan and in North America. Recent political initiatives in Japan to promote the right for collective defense has signaled that Clause 9 in Japan’s Constitution, which proclaims its non-involvement in offensive wars, might lose its effect. At the same time, accidents at Chernobyl under the Soviet Union, and more recently in nuclear power plants at Fukushima, reminded us of environmental, social, and health tolls, and psychological stress and fear under which people live. Almost 29 years after Chernobyl, the nuclear industry is expanding in Russia. In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has already been working on the resumption of operations in several nuclear plants. North Korea has recently conducted tests of nuclear weapons.



How do we coexist with this source of power? How do we prevent future accidents and/or the deployment of nuclear weapons? Our goal is to use this anniversary to promote historic awareness of the events among scholars, students, and the wider community, creating open space to discuss nuclear related issues, including international energy, security, and peace. Its scope goes beyond specific historic eras, regions, and topics, expanding our ideas around two separated but intertwined themes, historical issues (1945), with focus on the misuse of the nuclear power in international conflicts, and current issues (post-1945), which include nuclear accidents after World War II. 



The first section explores a number of historical questions. First, why and how did international actors decide to drop the atomic bombs on Japan? Historians have been debating since 1945 why the United States used such devastating methods when Japan basically had lost its military capacities. They have challenged the traditional interpretation that it was President Truman’s last available method to save lives of American soldiers with a number of new theories and findings, involving much more complicated diplomatic strategies. In general, Americans embraced the conclusion that the atomic bombs ended the war, and this theory became integrated into their collective memory and national history; counter theories remained outside the public sphere. Yet some historians reopened this old debate recently, departing from the traditional interpretation, and situating the decisionmaking in a much broader international context. Second, how did the threat of nuclear weapons shape international relations and societies after the end of World War II? That people’s lives were always threatened by the tension between the West and the Soviet Union is well known. Some facts, however, including the extent of nuclear proliferation and the impact of nuclear tests, remain controversial and pose questions for the contemporary world. Third, what long-term health and environmental impact did the atomic bombs have in Japan? What are the implications? Scholars, medical specialists, and military ranks have paid a great deal of attention to these issues over seventy years. Yet both assessments require a long-term investigation in order to draw some conclusions and patterns. Their findings will definitely help define what policies and plans the government should develop after the Fukushima accident. Fourth, how can we preserve the memories and stories of Hibakusha (survivors), when their numbers are significantly declining? How has Japan incorporated the stories into its collective memories and popular culture? A number of volunteers and writers are still trying to educate the younger generation about the sacrifices that human being made due to an international war. How far these messages could spread, and how long they live remain serious issues.




The second section expands the discussion into contemporary issues. First, what sort of influence did the more recent nuclear accidents have on the societies internationally? In both the cases of Chernobyl and Fukushima, the impact of the disasters was profound, contaminating extensive lands, requiring evacuations of residents, and stirring up the fears of those in neighboring areas. Since the accidents, many scholars have paid attention to the social and environmental issues, and launched projects to assess the scale of the damage. This conference places particular focus on international comparisons. Second, what policies and measures should the countries take in order to avoid further catastrophes? And what has happened to the evacuees? As both Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown, economic necessities forced both the government and the general public to forget the disasters, marginalizing anti-nuclear activists. Third, what can we do to promote the peaceful use of the atom? Should Japan reinterpret and revise its Constitution? Following the recent Cabinet decision that the right for collective defense is not unconstitutional, we examine both sides of the debate. Fourth, given the recent tendency that acts of war and terrorism are caused by international organizations, should we seek to stop the proliferation of nuclear power? How can we prevent terrorist attacks on nuclear installations? In a sense, the world is becoming more vulnerable than in the Cold War era due to the rise of several transnational terrorist organizations whose central body does not represent a nation.



We are exploring these issues with scholars mainly from Canada, the United States, and Japan. The conference will be two days in duration and comprises panels by general applicants and symposia with invited guests. 



Historical Issues:


1. Decision to Drop Atomic Bombs – New Perspectives


2. Atomic bombs in Cold War context


3. Health Impact of the Bombs


4. Memories / Literature of Hibakusha / Popular Culture




After Hiroshima / Nagasaki


5. Nuclear Accidents after Hiroshima / Nagasaki


6. Nuclear Energy and Policies


7. Peace Movement & Constitution


8. Nuclear Weapon and Terrorism


Conference Web-Site: