Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – SJ Environmental Justice

In August 1945, after four years of World War II, United States B-29 bomber, dropped the atomic bomb over the cities of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1946.

70.000  people died in 9 seconds, and the city of Hiroshima was leveled. 3 days later a second bomb was dropped  Nagasaki, Japan with the same devastating results. The bombing killed over 129.000 people.

This is the only use of a nuclear weapon in the history, and the justification of the bombing is still debated. It was the most devastating bomb that humanity invented

The bomb released a cataclastic load of energy. Death was instant. The ones who were close enough to see the blast lost their eyes. It was the last thing they ever saw.The bright light of the blast blinded them. The black of their eyes, the retina, melted away. The radiation received by the body is equivalent of today’s thousands of X-rays. The human body can’t absorb unlimited radiation. It falls apart because the cells are dying of radiation poisoning. If the radiation is intense enough, it looks like a burn. Layers of the skin begin to fall off. The bodies vital function began to slow down until it stops.

People exposed to a lower dose of radiation and who were not killed immediately died later by multiple forms of cancer.

The bomb wiped out 90% of the city. In the four months after the bombing, the acute effect of it killed 146.000 people in Hiroshima and around 80.000 people in Nagasaki. They died of the effect of the bombing burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries.

The following week of the devastation Japan’s Emperor announced his decision to surrender over the radio.

Was the decision to drop a new weapon wise from the USA?

Was the decision of dropping the second bomb, even before Japan had time to formulate its response justified?

The struggle of debating if the atomic bombing used against civilian targets provokes more questions about the morality of the bombing and nuclear arms in general.

We are more concerned about the effect of the bombing on the environment.


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There was a difference between the two bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The one dropped in Hiroshima called “ little boy”  was smaller 1200 ft in diameter but the damage made was huge.  70% of the buildings in the city were destroyed 140.000 people killed.  The temperature at explosion reached  7200 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, all the flora and fauna are destroyed. The fire propagated beyond d this line. The environmental impact its hard to be determined since anything that could flee would have.

The one dropped 3 days later in Nagasaki was named “fat man” and was slightly larger The blast created fireball almost 2 kilometers in diameter. Also reached around 7000 degrees Fahrenheit, with the same  effect on the environment, in this case, the fire was restrained a little by the hill terrain

Little boy used Uranium-235, with the half-life of  700 million years,  Fat man had Plutonium-239. With the life of 24,000 years. Once these bombs touched the ground, the effects will be there for a long time.

The effect of the exposure to radiation can be of 2 kinds. Immediate effect is killing cells, and damages tissues, The long scale effect include cancer, scars, cataracts, chromosome changes, etc

The most frequent type of cancer that rised between the survivors in the first 2-3 years was leukemia. The children’s were the most affected. Other forms of cancer appeared around year 10 after the attack. At this time, a tumor registry was created for both cities not to treat the victims but to collect data about the radiations and the rising cases of cancers.

1000 units of absorbed radiation can cause the annihilation of the bone narrow, drop in white cell counts, anemia, bleeding. Most of the victims would die in 30 days. At 10.000 units of radiation absorbed immediate disorientation and coma appear.

The estimated units of absorbed radiation in Hiroshima was 10.300 units and in Nagasaki was 25.100 units.

By 1975,  1,838 cases were diagnosed as leukemia in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Other forms of cancer that were rising in numbers were: Thyroid cancer mostly diagnosed in women, first discovered by autopsy, breast cancer, and Lung cancer. By 1972 were 3,778 lung cancers diagnosed.

Acute radiation signs like loss of hair, bleeding tendency, and inner mouth lesion, mental retardation were noted in 25% of newborn survivors of the pregnant women that survived the attack.Also, genetic mutations can also reduce reproductive capacity and cause changes in the appearance of the baby, such as extra limbs.

Allied Occupation of Japan imposed a strict code for the press,  on news reports and publication of all research about the atomic bombings. The purpose was to maintain public order and suppress anti-U.S. feelings Hiding public reports about the number of deaths and damages also made it easier in the U.S., to get approval for further nuclear arms development.

70 years after the bombings, most people who survived the bombing died. The study started to focus on the children born from the survivors of the bomb who had been exposed to radiation in utero. Studies showed that the number of cases of cancer was not rising in comparison with the children who survived the attack

Are Hiroshima and Nagasaki still radioactive? NO, they are not. The residual radioactivity following a nuclear explosion was scattered in the atmosphere, but some fell onto the city after 30-40 minutes from the explosion as black rain. Today the level of radioactivity can be barely notable. The radiation level in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is the same as the natural radiation present anywhere on Earth. It is not enough to affect human health, because the bombs exploded so far above the ground, the long lasting effects of the poisoning radiation were small. Most of the radioactivity disappeared in a few days of the detonation

Today, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a positive example of the human capacity to reborn.