My Turn: ‘Renounce the use and further development of nuclear weapons’

  • In this Aug. 9, 1945 file photo, a mushroom cloud rises moments after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, southern Japan.  AP

Published: 8/4/2021 6:59:36 AM

I am a child of the nuclear age.

My father was a radiologist. He    witnessed the aftermath of the bombing of Nagasaki. He wrote the first paper that appeared in the American literature about the effects of the bomb. He documented the injuries to the bone marrow and to the skin. He noted that the thermal injuries to the skin felt warm, but radiation injuries to the skin felt cold.

My father was left with the 1,000-yard stare characteristic of people who have been exposed to trauma, as were so many other members of the Greatest Generation, the victors of World War II. They were advised to go home and keep secrets; they were to be silent. Those with severe moral and physical injuries filled the beds of the VA across the nation for decades.

My father died of a brain tumor, as did my older brother. I suspect they were radiation-induced.

Between 1945 and 1980 the U.S. had 330 above-ground nuclear tests, both in the U.S. and the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. There were the ‘down winders” of Utah. The radiation was also carried by the wind to the east, and much of the radiation “fallout” fell with the rain into the Mid-West, the bread basket of the country. Children were ordered to play indoors. Cattle could not graze in the fields.

In Connecticut, my father would watch the clouds go by. When he learned that the entire country was contaminated with strontium 90, we switched to powdered milk; it had an awful taste but was apparently safe.

Then the above-ground testing ended, and children could once again play outdoors. However, the radiation lingers in the earth; the half-life of strontium 90 is 30 years. Today, 60 years later, there remains one-quarter of the original amount.

We have been destroying both ourselves as well as the environment with the development of our nuclear arsenal. There has been injuries where radioactive ore has been mined, such as the Sioux Indian Reservation in the Dakotas. The processing and enrichment of the ore has lead to superfund sites in Hanford, Washington.

The consequences of radiation exposure, including cancer, vascular disease, and birth defects, persist long after the exposure is over. Untold numbers have suffered and died. This destruction is occurring in a state of peace.

As with global warming, this is not a problem of the future. The nuclear disaster is already happening now. The consequences of nuclear weapons use in war today would be cataclysmic.

Most people here agree that Trump should not have had his finger on the button. I do not believe that anyone should be able to push the button.

Some argue for nuclear deterrence. They believe that they have the knowledge to use these weapons wisely. The word hubris comes to mind.

For love of the world and its continuation I believe we must renounce the use and further development of nuclear weapons before we destroy ourselves.

Andrew Larkin, MD, lives in Northampton.


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