An hour before the Chevron refinery in Richmond started to burn, Bay Area residents were demonstrating against a different type of energy that posed different environmental and health risks. It was August 6, the 67th anniversary of the day Hiroshima was devastated by a nuclear bomb. August 9 will be the anniversary of the bomb in Nagasaki.
To mark the day, about 50 met in front of the Japanese consulate in San Francisco. They then marched a few blocks to PG&E, bells chiming in beat with chants of “Radiation has no border,” “No nukes, shut the plants down” and “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukushima. Never again, never again, never again.”
The protest also commemorated the nuclear disaster at Fukushima on March 11, 2011, On Monday, the Japanese government released videos from the day of the disaster.
Speakers emphasized the ill-health effects still felt in the regions where the bombs were dropped. Between 150,000 and 240,000 people were killed by the bombs, and survivors often suffer cancer and other radiation-related problems due to their exposure.
“People are still suffering. Children still have deformities. This is not over,” said Steve Zeltzer, KPFA radio host and member of No Nukes Action Committee
Long-term reprecussions of military use of nuclear technology are felt strongly Hunter’s Point as well. That was where the US navy docked 79 ships that had been exposed to radiation following a bomb test in Bikini Attol. They docked in San Francisco to be decontaminated and, in the process, released radioactive material. Stationed in Hunter’s Point, and tasked with testing the material on the ships along with other research, was the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, which continued testing involving radioactive material in the area for decades.
“We’re struggling very hard to force them to clean up the nuclear waste that’s buried in BVHP,” said Marie Harrison of Greenaction for Health and Environment.
“As a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother who happens to live in Bayview-Hunters Point,” said Harrison, “this madness needs to stop. And if we don’t say it, no one else will.”
At the demonstration, protesters passed around a petition calling on the Japanese government. The petition calls for an end to nuclear power in Japan and government funds to evacuate people who remain in Fukushima because they can’t afford to leave.
Protesters also expressed concern about the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which was taken offline in January following a radioactive gas leak. The plant is of concern to San Diego Gas & Electric as well, who say that meeting energy needs for the area will be difficult this summer following the leak.