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Published on January 28th, 2014 | by Wilbert van der Zeijden

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Parliament and Humanity House Events

Yesterday, IKV Pax Christi, a proud ICAN partner, was involved in a couple of exciting events.

For quite some time now we’ve been building our relationships with Dutch parliamentarians. Yesterday, we facilitated presentations at a parliamentary hearing. Lars Pohlmeier, from IPPNW Germany presented the results of the recent study “2 Billion People at Risk”. Susi Snyder (IKV Pax Christi) presented some suggestions on ways parliament could encourage more fruitful activity from the Dutch government in response to the October 2013 Dutch Government policy letter on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Hans Kristensen (Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists) detailed how the B-61 modernisation plans mean new bombs with new capabilities. While Peter Herby (Norwegian Red Cross) reminded the MPs of the devastation that met emergency responders in Hiroshima and the utter inability to cope with such a disaster.

To top it off, Krista van Velzen (IKV Pax Christi) won the hearts and minds of MPs present (from Christian Democrats, Socialist, Labour and Liberal parties) by reminding them of all the efforts, the questions, the resolutions they have adopted on this issue in the past several years- and encouraging them to not only keep going- but to go further. She outlined some options for what MPs could do now- given the government’s responses to their previous efforts (which have often been dismissive). Everyone in the room was nodding and focused on what she said, and what they could do during Wednesday’s debate.

In the evening, the Dutch Red Cross opened our event at Humanity House. The room was filled with students and activists. Those who had never thought about a nuclear blast, and those who have worked for decades to ban the bomb.

Wilbert van der Zeijden (IKV Pax Christi) was the first speaker. He presented the first results from our forthcoming study on the impact of a 12kt ground burst detonation in the Port of Rotterdam. Explaining that we chose Rotterdam because its one of Europe’s biggest ports, that we carefully plotted the data using the low side of any scalable impact, that we have no need to exaggerate the information. Wilbert detailed what the blast, fire and fallout could do in the first few hours after a blast. Even those in Delft, turned towards Rotterdam would be temporarily blinded by the flash. He went on to say that many who fled the area would have a 50-50 chance of survival- depending on if they went North or South, and no one would know the right way to go in the chaos that even this small scale nuclear detonation would cause.

Peter Herby (Norwegian Red Cross) spoke about how there is no preparation. That even the most thoughtful emergency services, the most well funded hospitals, would be torn asunder by the use of nuclear weapons. He read from the journals of Marcel Junod, from Hiroshima soon after the bomb went off there. He described no blood donors, no electrically powered medical equipment, no nurses, no doctors. Peter spoke about how the Red Cross has pledged to educate and advocate for the outlaw and elimination of nuclear weapons, and that prevention is the only cure.

Lars Pohlmeier (IPPNW-Germany) brought tears to some eyes when he described his first visit to Hiroshima, meeting a man who stood at a bus stop every day, waiting for his daughter, who never came home.

Hans Kristensen (Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists) told the room about the near misses over decades of nuclear weapons deployments. He said we’ve been lucky, until now, especially because these weapons used to be everywhere. Hans went on to describe the new capabilities, and the costs, of a modernised nuclear bomb like the ones deployed in the Netherlands. That this project means the weapons could be more usable.

The two MPs who spoke- Raymond Knops (Christian Democrats) and Michiel Servaes (Labour Party – PvDA) were excellent. They spoke engagingly, emphatically, answering hard questions and while not making intensively bold statements, did win people over. Knops in particular talked about why its important that MPs be allowed to visit Volkel and see for themselves, while Servaes was forced to defend why PvDA now focuses on transparency instead of simply getting the weapons out. They both want to keep energy on this issue and we look forward to seeing how they turn these statements into action on Wednesday’s Parliamentary debate.

Once again, we were able to bring the issue of nuclear weapons into the public eye. There was an article in a national newspaper (NRC) on the B61 modernisation, and we’re expecting more to come.

 

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About the Author

Wilbert van der Zeijden is the senior researcher of the Security and DIsarmament team of PAX. Wilbert currently focusses on getting US nuclear weapons out of Europe; WMD out of the Middle East and your savings out of nuclear weapons producing companies. He graduated at the Vrije University in Amsterdam and previously worked for about nine years for the think-tank Transnational Institute, as their Peace and Security Programme coordinator. Wilbert’s research interests include humanitarian disarmament, NATO and European security, toxic legacies of war and developments in international military infrastructure.



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