U.S. college student probes changes in attitudes of Hiroshima citizens toward nuclear energy

by Kyoko Niiyama, Staff Writer

A junior at Boston College in the United States is in the midst of a visit to Hiroshima to interview A-bomb survivors and representatives of citizens’ groups who are opposed to the use of nuclear energy. Mary Popeo, 21, is seeking to learn how attitudes toward nuclear energy have changed in Hiroshima since the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 (Daiichi) nuclear power plant in March 2011. She has found that people who once accepted the peaceful use of the atom now view the matter in a different light after the disaster in Fukushima. Ms. Popeo plans to organize her findings for a paper she will present next spring at her college.

Ms. Popeo met with Haruko Moritaki, 74, co-chair of the Hiroshima-based citizens’ group Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, at the International Conference Center Hiroshima on July 24.

Ms. Moritaki said, “Groups opposed to nuclear weapons and those opposed to nuclear energy used to campaign separately, but following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, we have come to regard the power of the atom, in whatever form it takes, as a threat to human beings.” Ms. Popeo expressed hope that if Hiroshima would lead the movement against the use of nuclear energy, this could have a tremendous impact on other nations of the world.

Ms. Popeo arrived in Hiroshima on June 20 and has since interviewed some 20 people, including Yasuyoshi Komizo, chairperson of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, and Shoji Kihara, representative of “No Nukes Hiroshima,” a citizens’ group, as well as A-bomb survivors.

Ms. Popeo, who majors in international relations, has a strong interest in Japanese culture. She visited Nagasaki last summer to study the history of secret Christians in feudal Japan. During that trip she first learned about the terrible devastation of the atomic bombings, and wanted to learn what people in the A-bombed cities think in terms of distinguishing between the military use and the peaceful use of the atom.

While in Hiroshima, Ms. Popeo has also met with students at Hiroshima Jogakuin University, located in Higashi Ward, and will serve as a guide to students from abroad visiting Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park this summer. She will then return to the United States after attending the Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6. Ms. Popeo said that she will share her experiences in Hiroshima with her classmates and use the opportunity as a chance to reflect on nuclear issues.

(Originally published on July 25, 2013)