Ladies and Gentlemen,
The suffering of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was unspeakable. Some were vaporized immediately; others left in agony for hours, days, weeks or longer.
Why is it so important to remember? Is the aim to blame those who dropped the bombs? Nuclear weapons are the product of a chapter in human history so dark and inhumane that it is hard to grasp for most of us who were born after the Second World War. It's important to remember so that we can learn for the future. To make ours the credo of the survivors of the bombings, the Hibakusha: »Never again«.
Equally hard to grasp is the destructive power of the nuclear weapons developed after »Little Boy« and »Fat Man«. To put it into scale: if the destructive force of the Hiroshima bomb were represented by the space occupied by this lectern, a thermonuclear bomb would be the entire Rotunda. Cold War strategists counted casualties in »megadeaths«, the unit for one million victims.
As long as nuclear weapons remain, so does the risk that they will be detonated – whether as a test, accidentally or intentionally.
1. The risk of nuclear nesting
Around 500 atmospheric tests conducted since 1945 exposed whole populations to radioactive fallout, while many of the 1,500 underground tests left the soil contaminated and the ground water threatened for thousands of years.
The UN General Assembly Resolution has established 29 August as the International Day against Nuclear Tests »to avert devastating and harmful effects on the lives and health of people and the environment«. Here in the Rotunda, an art exhibition and a reception hosted by the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan will mark this International Day.
2. Accidents and nuclear
During the Cold War, the Superpower's early warning systems on both sides erroneously indicated a nuclear attack from the other side on more than one occasion. In 1983 for example, a lonely decision by Soviet Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich avoided an all-out nuclear war. His computer indicated incoming U.S. missiles – which later turned out to be sunlight glinting off U.S. territory which a satellite saw as missile flares.
There are numerous cases where nuclear weapons were damaged, lost, misplaced or even dropped from airplanes by mistake. By sheer luck none of them detonated – so far. For the United States, the Pentagon's official list of »broken arrows« mentions 32 accidents with nuclear weapons that posed a potential threat to the public.