LIVERMORE (CBS SF) — Bay Area nuclear war protesters held their annual rally at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory virtually on Thursday, the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima to call for an end to nuclear weapons.

The rally started at 8 a.m. Pacific time on the website and was part of a national event called “From Hiroshima to a Healthy Tomorrow: Embracing Our Common Humanity,” organized by more than 160 groups.

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Virtual programming will also occur on Sunday, the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki 75 years ago. Estimates of the number of people killed in the two explosions range from 110,000 to 210,000, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a non-profit organization that sets the hands of the Doomsday Clock, a measure of how close humanity is to destroying itself.

The clock is now set at 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been to annihilation.

“Every time I get sick, I say maybe this is the end,” said Nagasaki survivor Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, who was an infant when the bomb hit and whose mother and sister died in the attack. He said he’s been saying that for 75 years and says he’s lucky to still be alive.

Historian Gar Alperovitz, a former special assistant in the U.S. State Department, said the decision to drop the bombs was not made to end the
war but rather for diplomacy.

Alperovitz said military officials knew that using the bombs were not necessary. Japan was ready to surrender in two weeks, he said. Daniel Ellsberg, best known for releasing the Pentagon Papers to quicken the end to the Vietnam War, said American officials may have used the bomb to prompt Russia to pull back in Eastern Europe.

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Demonstrators say President Donald Trump’s administration is pouring gasoline onto the flames of new global arms race. In the 1960s, Russia imitated the American buildup of nuclear arms, Ellsberg said.

He said for more than half a century, there have been two doomsday machines, the U.S. and Russia, on hair-trigger alert.

Demonstrators say the Livermore Lab is central to the increasing nuclear danger.

They say that 88 percent of the funding for the lab is slated for nuclear weapons activity.

Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver disagreed with that number. She said that about 67 percent of the lab’s $2.3 billion budget for the current fiscal
year is spent on weapons work. If all of the lab’s national security work is combined, it would be closer to the 88 percent.

The Berkeley City Council last week adopted a resolution calling for President Trump and Congress to lead an effort to avoid nuclear war by giving up the option to do so, taking the weapons off hair-trigger alert,
ending the president’s sole authority to launch an attack, canceling plans to create enhanced weapons in the place of the current arsenal, and pursuing an agreement to eliminate the weapons among countries with nuclear war capability.

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