The University of Nuclear Bombs

Photo by RestrictedData | CC BY 2.0

The University of California is once again bidding to manage Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab at a time when the threat of nuclear war is rising.

When Nobu Hanaoka was 8 months old, the city where he lived and played was consumed by a fiery hell. On Aug. 9, 1945, a U.S. warplane released an atomic bomb over Nagasaki, Japan. The blast, heat, fire, and radiation from the bomb killed 40,000 people almost instantaneously. Roughly 70,000 died by year’s end. Three days prior, the U.S. military had also exploded an atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Those killed immediately numbered some 90,000. Those dying by the end of 1945 numbered some 140,000.

Now 73, Hanaoka was too young to remember the blast. But he vividly recalls the sickness and frailty that overcame his mother and sister, who — like tens of thousands of others — died more slowly due to radiation exposure. They both died from leukemia when Hanaoka was 5 years old. “As far back as I can remember, they were both in bed looking very pale,” recalled Hanaoka, in a recent interview.

After immigrating to the Bay Area, Hanaoka studied at the Berkeley Theological Union and became a reverend at a United Methodist church in Albany. He also became an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament. “We all have to work together to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether,” said Hanaoka, who now lives in Daly City.

The atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Rev. Hanaoka’s hometown of Nagasaki…

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