Survey of A-bomb survivors finds most think possibility of N-bomb usage has increased

More than 80% of A-bomb survivors believe the possibility of nuclear weapons being used has increased since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a recent survey.

The survey — conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun in collaboration with the Center for Peace, Hiroshima University — found that almost half of the respondents were pessimistic about the possibility of nuclear abolition, too.

The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed 100 A-bomb survivors across Japan between April and July, both in person and by telephone, in the run-up to the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In light of Russia’s aggression, 84 respondents said the possibility of nuclear weapons being used had “increased,” while 44 said it was “unforgivable” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had suggested using nuclear weapons, 19 “felt helpless” and 17 said it “renewed the resolve to convey the reality of the atomic bombings.”

Forty-six respondents said the possibility of nuclear abolition was “low” or “zero,” increasing from last year’s figure of 37, while 53 said abolition “will be realized,” falling from 62 last year.

Hideko Nakaoka, 93, a resident of Mihara, Hiroshima Prefecture, who experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima City, said: “I’m becoming increasingly fearful that the tragedy will be repeated again as a result of Russia’s invasion. The voices of A-bomb survivors haven’t reached the world.”

However, more than 80% of respondents said they “appreciate” the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which held its first members’ meeting in June.

In order to discern young people’s attitudes, a separate online-based survey was conducted on about 1,200 first-year students at eight universities across Japan.

Approximately 75% of the students said nuclear weapons “will definitely be used” or are “very likely to be used” in the future.

About 70% said there was a “zero” or “low” chance of nuclear abolition, while only 4% thought abolition “will be achieved while A-bomb survivors are still alive.”

On the issue of possessing nuclear weapons, 55.9% of the students answered that it could “deter war,” and more than 80% thought Japan’s dependence on the United States’ nuclear umbrella was “understandable” or “unavoidable.” Conversely, about 80% said nuclear weapons should be “completely eliminated” or “reduced.”

Luli van der Does, associate professor at the Center for Peace, Hiroshima University, said: “While more students showed understanding of nuclear deterrence, about 80% of those calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons had studied the reality of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Visits to the A-bombed cities are fostering an awareness of peace, and next year’s summit in Hiroshima will be an important opportunity.”