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Global Overview

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The US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, killed more than 200,000 people in 1945. Those who survived have suffered many difficulties. As of March 2017, there were more than 164,000 hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) living in Japan. A considerable number of foreigners were exposed to the radioactive contamination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Notably, 22,000 Korean nationals (many of whom were coerced into labor and sexual slavery) died and 30,000 survived the atomic bombings. There were Allied prisoners of war in both cities, including American, Australian, British and Dutch soldiers. 195,000 US troops participated in the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; The British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), consisting of 45,000 troops from Australia, Britain, India and New Zealand, was stationed in Hiroshima after the Japanese surrender.

Since 1945, a further 2,476 nuclear devices were detonated in 2,121 nuclear tests by the USA, Soviet Union, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Hundreds of thousands of military and civilian personnel participated. Tests occurred in Algeria, Australia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, French Polynesia/Te Ao Maohi, India, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Pakistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, USA and Uzbekistan. Nuclear-armed and -aspirant states frequently tested devices in areas that they considered peripheral, which has put a disproportionate burden on indigenous communities. Fallout from atmospheric tests spread throughout the world. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) estimates that “roughly 2.4 million people will eventually die as a result of the atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1980, which were equal in force to 29,000 Hiroshima bombs.”

The following documents provide a general and global overview of the humanitarian, human rights and environmental impact of nuclear weapons use and testing. For our own global overview, click here.

Official Documents

UNSCEAR. (2000) “Annex C: Exposures to the public from man-made sources of radiation.” Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation. Vienna, UNSCEAR. External link.

UNSCEAR. (2017) “Annex B: Epidemiological Studies of Cancer Risk due to Low-Dose-Rate Radiation from Environmental Sources.” 2017 Report to the UN General Assembly. External link.

U.S. Department of Energy. (1994) United States Nuclear Tests: July 1945 through September 1992. Las Vegas, U.S. DoE Nevada Operations Office. Download.

Kurt Waldheim. (1980) Comprehensive Study on Nuclear Weapons: Report of the Secretary-General. A/35/392. New York, UN General Assembly. External link.

Academic Studies

Robert Jacobs. (2014) “The Radiation That Makes People Invisible: A Global Hibakusha Perspective.” The Asia-Pacific Journal. 12(31). pp. 1-11. External link.

Rebekah Leigh Johnson. (2009) “Psychological Fallout”: The Effects of Nuclear Radiation Exposure.” Doctor of Clinical Psychology thesis, Massey University. External link.

Remus Pravalie. (2014) “Nuclear Weapons Tests and Environmental Consequences: A Global Perspective.” Ambio. 43(6). pp. 729-744. External link.

Steven L. Simon, André Bouville and Charles E. Land. (2006) “Fallout from Nuclear Weapons Tests and Cancer Risks: Exposures 50 years ago still have health implications today that will continue into the future.” American Scientist. 94(1). pp. 48-57. External link.

Civil Society and Thinktank Studies

Nils-Olov Bergkvist & Ragnhild Ferm. (July 2000) Nuclear Explosions: 1945-1998. Stockholm, SIPRI. External link.

Beatrice Fihn (Ed.). (2013) Unspeakable Suffering: The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Geneva, Reaching Critical Will. External link.

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). (2015) Catastrophic Humanitarian Harm. External link

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). (1991) Radioactive Heaven and Earth: The Health and Environmental Effects of Nuclear Weapons Testing In, On, and Above the Earth. London, Zed Books. External link.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). (n.d.) Hibakusha Worldwide. External link.

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