International project examines human fallout from nuclear energy

August 15, 2013

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Associate Professor Mick Broderick says the Fukushima disaster is one story among many when it comes to the impact of nuclear technology on our lives.

The Murdoch School of Arts researcher and Professor Robert Jacobs of the Hiroshima Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University have been travelling the globe to understand the social, cultural and economic impacts of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing on communities affected by radiation exposure.

These include Japan, Nevada and the Marshall Islands (used by the US); Kazakhstan and northern Siberia (used by the USSR); Maralinga in South Australia and Kiribati (used by the UK); Algeria and French Polynesia (used by France); and Lop Nor (used by China).

Professor Broderick said while some comparative medical studies had been done on these affected communities, no comprehensive cultural/historical investigation has occurred.

“What we’ve found is that most of these affected communities are characterised by poor socioeconomic conditions, some with tenuous futures due to climate change, and they’re dealing with a complex range of social, cultural and political issues as a result of what they’ve experienced,” he said.

“This includes a number of indigenous communities who were removed from their traditional lands, had those lands contaminated and were then returned to spaces that were sometimes rehabilitated, sometimes not.”

Professor Broderick said reaction to the project has been positive and has seen second and third generations engage with elders to understand how the traumatic ruptures in their communities have been negotiated across decades, often in the form of silence, denial, guilt and or dysfunction.

“In many cases, the second and third generations don’t understand the why and how of their situation, which is why we’ve worked collaboratively to set up a framework for social media so that they can reconnect with their families through digital storytelling,” Professor Broderick said.

He said connecting affected communities around the globe provides a symbol of solidarity and a precedent in seeking legal outcomes and medical recognition.

He added that a cross-generational gathering of leaders from affected communities is planned in the Marshall Islands for March 2014 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Castle Bravo test, which resulted in 7000 square miles being contaminated by a 15 megaton hydrogen explosion.

Professor Broderick is currently exhibiting photos from Maralinga where the British military undertook nuclear testing on the lands of the Maralinga Tjarutja people.

Pakala Parnaku: Stand up for the Land runs from August 2–18, 10am–4pm at Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery in Fremantle.

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