U.S. legislators from both sides of the aisle, parliamentarians from around the world (members of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament) – representatives of the ATOM Project, congressional aides and over 200 others gathered in the historic Russell Senate Building on Feb. 27, the eve of Nuclear Remembrance Day, for an evening to highlight the financial and humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, encourage anti-nuclear weapons dialogue and build parliamentary engagement in practical measures to achieve a nuclear-weapons free world.
The PNND/ATOM Project reception, hosted by U.S. Senator and PNND Co-President Ed Markey, highlighted the vision of President Obama in his Prague speech in 2009, but lamented the lack of progress in implementing this vision.
As such Senator Markey used the occasion to announce the introduction into the U.S. Senate of the SANE Act (Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditure) to slash the U.S. budget on nuclear weapons by $100 billion over the next decade
The Feb. 27 event include inspirational speeches by Senator Markey, Kazakhstan Ambassador to the United States Kairat Umarov, PNND Global Coordinator Alyn Ware, as well as ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador, armless artist and nuclear weapons testing survivor Karipbek Kuyukov.
Senator Markey urged those in attendance to embrace the cause, as well as highlighted other, better ways the U.S. can spend funds now devoted to its nuclear arsenal.
Ambassador Umarov also told the gathering of the efforts of his country to lead the way in nuclear non-proliferation and reminded participants that Kazakhstan unilaterally disarmed what was then the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal.
The evening concluded with a short documentary film by The ATOM Project and an inspiring presentation by ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador Kuyukov. Kuyukov was born without arms as a result of his parents’ exposure to Soviet-era nuclear weapons testing. He has since gone on to become a renowned visual artist and travels the globe on behalf of The ATOM Project sharing his story.
Kuyukov told the crowd that doctors were so horrified at the sight of him at birth that they suggested to his parents that he be given a lethal injection to end his life. He also told of the premature deaths of his siblings and of the suffering of others as a result of nuclear weapons testing. He said he had travelled to the United States in the hope that his story will lead him to be the last person to suffer as a result of nuclear weapons testing.
See also: PNND/ATOM Project event in U.S. Senate.