Youth from Hiroshima to visit Semipalatinsk, former nuclear testing site

by Kohei Okata, Staff Writer

A citizens group from Hiroshima, including a number of youth, will soon visit Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, where the former Soviet Union maintained a nuclear test site. During their stay in Semipalatinsk, members of the group will also work on preparations for an international youth conference to be held there next year, which marks the 60th anniversary of nuclear testing at the now-defunct site. The group, called CANVaS, is eager to strengthen ties with their counterparts in Semipalatinsk.

CANVaS, a group focused on international activities, currently has 13 members, consisting of high school students, university students, and adult supporters. This will be the second trip to Semipalatinsk for the CANVaS group, following the first trip made last summer. The nine-day trip will start on August 15 and will include six participants.

Next year’s international conference, to be held in August 2008, will feature young people from both Hiroshima and Semipalatinsk reporting on the impact of nuclear weapons on people and the environment and discussing ways to address these concerns. During the trip, details involving the venue and schedule for the conference will be considered. The group has already sought the support of university students in Semipalatinsk who studied at a high school in Hiroshima. They also intend to visit a hospital and ask for the cooperation of people who were exposed to the radiation released by the nuclear tests.

Mai Nikami, 15, and Aiko Teshima, 16, students at Yasuda Girls High School, were among those who took part in a pre-trip study session on nuclear testing by the former Soviet Union, held on July 24 at Hiroshima City International House. “The meeting reminded us of the importance of learning more about the damage caused by nuclear testing,” they said. “We want to convey the cruelty of nuclear weapons, including the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and the importance of peace.” Takayuki Koasano, 29, an office worker who will take part in the trip, too, added with enthusiasm, “To eliminate nuclear weapons, it’s essential to create close networking among young people. We want to work more closely with the young people of Semipalatinsk, a place that has also suffered the consequences of nuclear weapons.”

(Originally published on July 30, 2008)