LIVERMORE -- Retired Daly City minister Nobuaki Hanaoka was only a baby in 1945 when the sky lit up like a new sun near his family's home in Nagasaki, Japan.
Though he was too young to remember the blast of the second atomic bomb dropped during wartime, he endured its aftermath. Hanaoka's mother and sister died from illnesses linked to radiation poisoning when he was a child, but Hanaoka, 68, didn't realize he'd been exposed until later in life.
"My family didn't like to talk about the bombing; I think it has something to do with the stigma of being a survivor," Hanaoka said. "I survived. I was still alive, but whenever I got sick, even with the common cold, I was worried and thought it was the end of my life."
Hanaoka's brother passed away at 39 from premature aging, one of thousands who perished from the subsequent fallout. Hanaoka moved on to study theology and found anti-nuclear activism through the "nuclear freeze" movement and the "Friends of Hibakusha" in San Francisco. Hibakusha refers to the surviving victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
"I didn't want another Nagasaki tragedy to happen anywhere else in the world," Hanaoka said.
On Tuesday, Hanaoka will speak at the annual Hiroshima Day protest outside Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where anti-nuclear activists will gather to mark the 68th anniversary of the bombings. The keynote speaker for the event will be Daniel Ellsberg, best known as the whistle-blower who leaked the "Pentagon Papers" in 1971. Ellsberg will talk about a book he's writing on U.S. nuclear weapons policy, as well as government secrecy and whistle-blowers.
Hiroshima Day protesters have held ceremonies at Livermore lab for the past 20 years, said Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) executive director, who added that the annual event is a time to reflect and engage.
"We are commemorating the use of nuclear weapons at a location where weapons designers are creating the next nuclear material," Kelley said. "We'll be there to say, 'Never again.'"
During the morning's program, author Cecile Pineda will discuss the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and attorney Loulena Miles will speak on nuclear weapons activities at the lab. At 8:15 a.m., signifying the moment the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, there will be a moment of silence, followed by a procession to the lab's West Gate, where some protesters will have their bodies outlined in chalk, referring to the shadows of victims burned into the ground by the bomb's flash. Those protesters who choose to do so, Kelley said, can then risk arrest by blocking the gate.
Livermore Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said the lab plans on having an additional security personnel at the gate for the demonstration and responded to claims by protest organizers.
"The lab does not design new nuclear weapons," Seaver said in an email. "It is the lab's mission, set by Congress and the administration, to maintain the safety and security of the nuclear weapons stockpile. This includes work in extending the life of aging weapons in the stockpile in keeping with the nation's nuclear posture."
Hundreds of protesters have been arrested during Hiroshima Day protests at the lab over the past two decades. Kelley said the intent of the annual event is to show the threat of nuclear annihilation didn't end with the Cold War and to illustrate the importance of disarmament in 2013. For Hanaoka, who experienced atomic warfare's disastrous effects firsthand, the protest symbolizes a march toward a different future.
"It's important to know that Livermore Lab is still involved in the weaponization of nuclear energy," Hanaoka said. "Even though we all want peace in the world, we are still making new bombs."
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.
The Livermore Conversion Project coalition's annual Hiroshima Day commemoration and protest will take place outside the Lawrence Livermore National Lab on Tuesday. Protesters will gather at the northwest corner of the Lab, at the corner of Vasco and Patterson Pass roads, at 7 a.m. Daniel Ellsberg will deliver the event's keynote speech. The program includes talks by Nagasaki bombing survivor Nobuka Hanaoka, author Cecile Pineda and attorney Loulena Miles. A procession down Vasco Road to the lab's West Gate follows at 8:15 a.m.