Anti-nuclear scientist group aims to boost influence amid growing defense research fears

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Japanese scientists are trying to make Pugwash Japan, the domestic arm of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs — an international organization working toward the abolition of nuclear arms and war — more active and influential amid concerns that the defense industry and scientific community are growing increasingly closer.

The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs held its first world meeting in the small fishing village of Pugwash, Canada, in 1957 during the nuclear arms race of the Cold War, and has since worked on and advocated for the elimination of nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction. Japanese physicist and 1949 Nobel Prize laureate Hideki Yukawa had actively participated in Pugwash meetings, including the first session, and Japan has hosted international Pugwash conferences, but the number of Japanese scientists involved in the movement has been dropping in recent years.

Since individual scientists join the conference based on their own qualifications, Japanese scientists who took part in past international meetings launched Pugwash Japan to spread the message. The Japan group decided in September to relaunch a better-organized Pugwash Japan with a code of conduct and membership system after an international Pugwash general conference was held in the city of Nagasaki in November last year. The group’s aim is to open the door wider to those who are interested in the group’s activities and strengthen its influence in policy making.

The newly reformed Pugwash Japan, headed by nuclear engineering professor Tatsujiro Suzuki at Nagasaki University, will hold its first general meeting in Tokyo on Nov. 27. It will have some 40 members, with Keio University professor emeritus Michiji Konuma — who worked with Yukawa — on the steering committee, and 16 advisers such as engineer Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, a special adviser to the Japan Science and Technology Agency and former chairman of the Science Council of Japan, and University of Tokyo professor emeritus Seigo Hirowatari.

Member scientists are set to discuss concerns regarding defense research in Japan and the challenges to nuclear disarmament that remain following U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima. To ensure unrestrained discussion, the meeting will be closed to the public, but results of the debate will be incorporated into the statements it releases to the public. The organization is also considering holding symposiums for the general public.

Pugwash Japan chairman Suzuki said he hopes that the group provides scientists with an opportunity for open-minded discussion based on the two pillars of the Pugwash Conference — social responsibility of scientists and dialogue across divides. He added, “We’re concerned about the current tendency for everything to lean toward national security and hope that our discussions that will lead to policy proposals.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161113/p2a/00m/0na/004000c

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