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Nuclear Awareness Conference: Thought Provoking and Impressive

A three-day conference that brought together activists and speakers from as far away as the Marshall Islands and Japan was held on the UAS Juneau campus April 18-20.

DVD CoverThe conference included keynote talks by Ms. Shigeko Sasamori, a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima, Mayor James Matayoshi, an activist on behalf of the Marshallese people in the aftermath of the nuclear testing conducted by the U.S. and Dr. Holly Barker, an author and senior advisor to the Marshallese government. Other highlights included a presentation by Skagway highschool students who visited the Marshall Islands for a project that planted the seed for the conference.

According to an article by Alan Suderman in the Juneau Empire, the now 75-year old Sasamori said she barely survived being so close to the bomb when it detonated. She was badly burned and spent five days drifting in and out of consciousness before her parents found her. Her face at the time was so disfigured that her parents couldn't tell the front of her head from the back.

The three-day event was a joint project of the Hiroshima Peace Museum, The Marshall Island Government, Veteran’s for Peace, Alpha Phi Omega (Alpha Zeta Theta Chapter) and the UAS Chancellor’s office. It was largely organized by student Forest Kvasnikoff.

The closing talk was given by Victoria Sampson, who works as a research analyst for the Center for Defense Information. One of her specialties is missile defense. She addressed several issues, including Juneau’s role in Ballistic Missile Defense and the Lena Point Radar. She questioned whether it is worth the 180 billion dollars projected to be spent by 2013 on ballistic missile defense systems and if they create a false sense of security given a dubious testing track record. She also warned that such systems could potentially provoke volatile regimes like North Korea.

In his closing remarks, UAS history faculty David Noon noted a lack of basic democratic control over nuclear policy starting with the Manhatten Project. “The whole history of nuclear weapons has been shrouded from the public,” he said.  He observed that a prevailing feeling is that the public doesn’t have control, hence a reason not to come to such a conference. “Now that this is over you are welcome to go back to not thinking about it,” he said. “Or do something about it.”

The entire 2008 Nuclear Awareness Conference was recorded and produced by UAS Video Production Services. It can be ordered on-line through the UAS bookstore


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