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What Do We Teach Our Students About Hiroshima and Nagasaki?


What Do We Teach Our Students About Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Emilie K. Clark

Last year, I joined a small group of activists in Staten Island, NY to march in remembrance of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This year I am representing Peace Action New York State as I march in Hiroshima itself, joining a world-wide network of activists calling for the end of nuclear weapons.


As a young boy and child of two scientists, I used to peruse the encyclopedia in our den and all but memorized the details of Little Boy and Fat Man. I later worked for the Department of Energy’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, performing early (1980’s) analyses of Yucca Mountain for a potential repository site. I can attest to this: The nuker-kookers are nuts–civilian and military. Really, they have a way of mastering cognitive dissonance that boggles the mind. I’m currently reading Daniel Ellsberg’s Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (2017). It is not for the faint of heart. While I’m not a religious man, I’ll note that Eve’s apple had nothing on the nuclear genie once released from the bottle (lab).


It is critical, absolutely critical that we teach about the millions of people Imperial Japan killed in Asia—it was an unspeakable genocide. The majority were murdered with picks, shovels, fire, and clubs. Thousands of women kidnapped and sent back to Japan to serve as sex slaves. Despite repeated warnings from the West, Imperial Japan refused to surrender. Had the USA tried to win the war by invading Japan, it is estimated over 100,000 Americans would have been killed.



Read The Untold History of the United States by Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone for the full story the atomic bombings.



To answer the title question: As in all other things teach TRUTH. The record on the creation and use of nuclear weapons and power by the U.S. and other Western empires is absolutely clear and on the record. The fact that non-Western empires followed suit is only logical because the U.S. used/uses DU) nuclear weapons.

While they’re at it, schools should be teaching the ongoing legacy of nuclear wastes (including nuclear power), which rivals global warming/climate change as a human extinction event.

If TRUTH is too dark and tough to teach/learn/know, then do something else – like Tweet your life away. All good. No problem. Whatever.


Talk also about nuclear disasters that we have had and may still also. Hanford in Washington State. The White Sands Desert where testing took place. Nuclear plants using sea water for cooling, located on coastlines where waters are rising. Three Mile Island.

Nuclear Accidents in the United States - wikipedia.org


How about we stick to teaching kids things that are demonstrably true or have a sound scientific basis?


Yeh,like the theory of “creationism” or that the U.S. is a democracy or that Chernobyl only killed a few people, or the world is flat…teach on master.


Creationists and flat-Earthers live in a bubble-reality, where their information is filtered by their beliefs. Any reinforcing information is accepted uncritically without any skeptical examination of its worth. Any conflicting information is dismissed, typically as being disinformation and propaganda, which only seems to have such consistency and integration because it comes from some nefarious, well-coordinated, vast, global conspiracy. It is not unusual for people within a bubble-reality to view those on the outside as being deluded, brainwashed, and incapable of seeing “truth”.

But if we go by the preponderance of evidence, the confirmed acute radiation death toll from Chernobyl was less than 50, the surplus thyroid cancer death toll was less than 20 as of 2009, and including non-radiation deaths still puts the death toll at less than 100. The Chernobyl forum projected there could eventually be up to 4,000 surplus cancer deaths among the liquidators, and one paper said 5,000 eventual surplus deaths for the 6 million living in the most contaminated regions were theoretically possible, but in both cases, if there have been surplus cancers in either group, they have as yet been below detection threshold. But bubble-reality anti-nukes deride such figures and their caveats, and more typically embrace wholly unsupported figures, like the Greenpeace-commissioned Yablokov piece that projected the Chernobyl death toll at 985,000.

So back to the notion that nuclear power waste represents any kind of potential human extinction-level threat, did you get that from some anti-nuke cultist, or do you actually have any scientifically-plausible basis for such a claim?


Well, since you’re such a friggin’ scientific genius and can build a case on a preponderance of (failed) studies, let me ask you the first basic question about human-created nuclear waste? Has a single rad ever been neutralized by human means? And then there’s the second question: is there such a thing as non-carcinogenic “low level waste.” Oh hell, here’s another, what happens when nuclear processes create transuranic and other wastes? I suggest you go out to Hanford and take a bath in one of their rotting tanks that leak all kinds of shit into the Columbia River. You’ll probably survive for the half-life of plutonium and then you can swim over to Fukushima and eat some radiated Sushi for a snack. Do you get paid to excrete this tripe, or just do it for fun? Hey, I am sure you can get a job teaching “science” somewhere on a George Monbiot Grant.


Sorry deckhughes2, you’re last two sentences are pure propaganda and rubbish. Japan did offer to surrender, all they wanted was to keep their Emperor, but the US wouldn’t except that. Many military leaders from that time agreed there was no reason to use the bombs, that eventually the two powers could agree on Japans surrender and no invasion was necessary.
The bottom line is the MIC wanted to create tension with the USSR (who was an ally, and was most instrumental in the win for the allies), the bombs were dropped, and on to the Cold War, and almost continued war ever since.


Bravo! This is a major issue. All inclusive truth in education is a must. Extending American exceptionalism into it must end. This is part of the very reason we have Donald Trump as president now.


All kids need to know that the US is the only country in the world to use nuclear weapons against a perceived enemy.


I read the book ," Hiroshima, " in high school and the words that the writer ( I think it was John Hershey) have stayed with me forever.

A person looking up at the sun in the sky— and their eyeballs melted…but the one that was most shocking was that of a man who was in a small boat and he reached out to help another man in the water-----and the skin of the man’s hand came off like a glove.
In college I took an class in the history of Atomic Energy…and saw some photographs that the public can see, like a man’s shadow burned into a wall. I saw pictures of women with the kimono design burned into their skin…I heard that the military has movies of all this but that they won’t release those films. We also killed Americans who were prisoners of war in Japan who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.I remember reading about Oppenheimer saying something from the ancient Indian writings—“Now I am made death…:”

I grew up in the Easy Bay in California and I had wonderful teachers all through school-----so it is sad to read that many schools don’t cover this, or even learn what happened to people in the path of later nuclear tests .It seemed like, we as a nation , would have learned from all that awful horror---------but apparently we are still awful in using depleted uranium on the people in Iraq----and other places too. Instead of sending freedom around the world---- it seems that my government chose death-------------The Marshall Plan after WW 2, seemed like a really good way to lead… but I guess there’s more money in death. : (


A rad is a measurement of absorbed radiation dose. Once absorbed, we don’t have a way by human means to undo the energy that was imparted. But rads can certainly be prevented by human means. It takes both radiation and exposure tor a rad to be delivered, and we have lots of control over the latter. Nuclear spent fuel fresh out of the reactors is some of the most intensely radioactive material we deal with on a routine basis, but in decades of handling, shuffling, and storing tens of thousands of tons of the stuff, the radiation death toll associated with that still stands at zero. And that’s the safety record for people who work in closest proximity to it. So to suggest it represents any sort of extinction-level threat just sounds as unhinged as the frothy ravings one would expect from Alex Jones or Dana Durnford. Did you get the notion from someone like that?

“And then there’s the second question: is there such a thing as non-carcinogenic “low level waste.””

Low level waste that is buried for a few decades is not going to give anyone cancer. If you were to concentrate low level waste (reactor components and such) and spend some time in close proximity to it unshielded, you could significantly raise your risk of cancer, depending on the dose and rate. A dose delivered over a very short time interval is probably more harmful that the same dose stretched over a long time interval. And by the way, we are surrounded by carcinogens, and routinely eat carcinogens–and they don’t represent a human-extinction level threat either.

“Oh hell, here’s another, what happens when nuclear processes create transuranic and other wastes?”

If you mean what happens at the atomic level, the “waste” transuranics created in today’s reactors are heavy metal isotopes which absorb neutrons without fissioning, after which they become a different isotope, and then they may undergo decay and become different elements. If you are asking what happens in some other regard, what do you mean?

“I suggest you go out to Hanford and take a bath in one of their rotting tanks that leak all kinds of shit into the Columbia River.”

The poorly-contained Hanford waste site was created by nuclear weapons fuel production. Not by nuclear power. Weapons waste is no more an argument against nuclear power than it is against nuclear medicine.

“You’ll probably survive for the half-life of plutonium”

If you mean plutonium 238, that would mean surviving for 88 years, which actually sounds agreeable, if not very likely. For some other isotopes, it would be thousands of years.

“and then you can swim over to Fukushima and eat some radiated Sushi for a snack.”

All the marine fish I’ve ever eaten has been radioactive. And for the last six decades or so, a small amount of that radioactivity has been from cesium 137 from atomic bombs. Even today, this is a much larger component than any contamination from Fukushima. But even the detonated atomic bombs did not represent an extinction-level threat to humans, or to marine life.


There are three facts that are conveniently overlooked by those who favor and those who are against the use of atomic bombs to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  1. The development was spurred on by the realization that Germany was working on their own a-bomb along with missiles to be able to delver them as far a way as the Soviet Union or the US.
  2. The use of such devices was also encouraged by the absolutely fanatical resistance of the occupying Japanese forces that had to be cleared out of places like Guadlecanal, Iwo Jima, Kwajalein, and Okinawa (which was the most costly single battle fought by the US in WW II).
  3. Finally, the US president who made the decision (Harry Truman) knew absolutely nothing about this weapon or its implications. All he was told was that its use could shorten the war and prevent even greater carnage than had already taken place on both sides in the war in the Pacific.

This is the background that led to the use of nuclear bombs in WWII. In the over 70 years since that conflict ended, current world leaders on all sides have no such excuses for either the development or use of nuclear weapons.


It is clear beyond any plausible doubt that nuclear energy and radiation may cause collapse of civilizations in an interchange that includes repeated incidents of hundred to thousands of kiloton TNT equivalents being released in detonations with take on the order of microseconds i.e. nuclear war.

As a sustainable energy engineer I have researched the health impact of nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, biomass, geothermal are without l powers. None are without health impact, but all are much less damaging than fossil fuels.

Unlike nuclear, geothermal can be implemented quite well in individual homes and solar, wind, and micro-hydro can be done as part of community owned cooperatives.

Additionally, the World Nuclear Association has estimated that, given presently identified sources, present electrical use, and present tech, uranium for nuclear power can be expected to be exhausted on the order of hundreds of years (http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/uranium-resources/supply-of-uranium.aspx )


Reports of generals from the time as well as correspondence between political leaders, indicate that Japan was near surrender before the US targeted dense civilian centers for nuclear annihilation of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children. (See: https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-real-reason-america-used-nuclear-weapons-against-japan-it-was-not-to-end-the-war-or-save-lives/5308192 )

Top secret documents, since released, make clear that the US used nuclear weapons in a reprehensible effort to terrorize the Japanese leadership into surrender. (https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu//nukevault/ebb525-The-Atomic-Bomb-and-the-End-of-World-War-II/documents/011.pdf)

What is also clear is that Japan could have been brought to surrender if the war criminal, Truman, had not removed the comments about the Japanese emperor remaining after surrender.

The US use of nuclear weapons was an act of terrorism and a crime against humanity.What is chilling is that today, with the prospect of a US nuclear war on Iran a real possibility, many share your embrace of the US entitlement to use nuclear weapons.


Agree, that narrative has been used ad nauseum since 1945.


I think there is broad consensus that nuclear war would be a bad thing. However, we’ve had more than 500 atmospheric bomb detonations with a total yield of around 540 megatons, and the energy and radiation released from those had scarcely any discernible impact on civilization. Also, using nuclear energy for bomb use has no more to do with civilian uses of nuclear energy than using combustion bombs has to do with ordinary and peaceful uses of fire. (Many hundreds of thousands more Japanese civilians died in firebombings than died in both atomic blasts combined.) And the claim I was addressing was that the waste from nuclear power represents an extinction level hazard, and while I’m still waiting to hear some scenario for how that could happen, we can already rule out the possibility of the fuel detonating like an atomic bomb, since it does not have that potential.

“Unlike nuclear, geothermal can be implemented quite well in individual homes and solar, wind, and micro-hydro can be done as part of community owned cooperatives.”

Geothermal is great where the conditions are favorable for it. It is just about the only significant renewable source which can work anytime and doesn’t depend on weather to deliver the energy. There aren’t a lot of locations which are economically favorable with current drilling technology, but that may improve. Fission nuclear happens on too large a scale for isolated small applications, so we will likely always need a mix of solutions for different applications. Much like how trucks and bicycles can both serve transport functions but neither will ever displace the other.

“Additionally, the World Nuclear Association has estimated that, given presently identified sources, present electrical use, and present tech, uranium for nuclear power can be expected to be exhausted on the order of hundreds of years”

It makes no sense to project what supply will be hundreds of years into the future based on the technology we have now, because that is not the technology we’ll be using in the future. Even now, there are multiple molten salt fast reactors in development, with most working towards getting an operational reactor up in roughly 5 to 7 years, and all of them look like they have good prospects for being much cheaper than our legacy-tech nuclear. Such reactors would be able to tap into a ready supply of fuel amounting to more than a million-gigawatt years (electric), just from consuming the spent fuel and depleted uranium that we already have on hand–no mining required. For comparison, the total energy we’ve extracted from coal, oil, and natural gas so far amounts to roughly 750,000 gigawatt years of thermal energy, which would be less than 300,000 gigawatt-years electric. So just in the spent fuel and depleted uranium that we already have lying around, there is three times as much energy as all the energy we’ve ever gotten from all fossil fuels combined.

And fast reactors could also burn nuclear bomb pits (both uranium and plutonium). For those who don’t like nuclear bombs, it might be worth noting that today’s reactors have already destroyed enough bomb fuel to make more than 17,000 ICBM-class warheads, which is an amount greater than the number of warheads currently deployed in all the world’s nuclear arsenals combined. And in molten salt fast reactors, the energy return (and revenues) from consuming bomb fuel would be more than 20 times greater.

And if that’s not enough, our current known recoverable uranium reserves on land could add another six million gigawatt-years without any new finds. And if that’s not enough, there’s another billion gigawatt-years worth of uranium in seawater (currently extractable at about double the cost of terrestrial mining, but that cost has been falling with technology improvements). And the seawater supply is being continually replenished from the trillions of tons of uranium in continental rock. And if that’s not enough, fast reactors could also burn thorium at similar efficiency, and it’s about three times more abundant than uranium (4x as common). And long before we put a significant dent in any of these reserves, we are going to figure out fusion, which also has several fuel sources. Just the supply of deuterium in the oceans would be enough for more than 100 trillion gigawatt-years of energy. So I would say one energy problem we are probably never going to face is running out of nuclear fuels. They are simply too abundant on this planet for that to happen.