Paper lanterns float along the Motoyasu River in front of...

Paper lanterns float along the Motoyasu River in front of the illuminated Atomic Bomb Dome near Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, on Aug. 6, 2011. Credit: AP

About 50,000 people attended a memorial ceremony in Hiroshima, Japan, Saturday to mark the 66th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city, the first such ceremony since the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant erupted following a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that swamped the power source for the plant's cooling towers.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and representatives of 66 nations — including nuclear powers Britain, France, Russia and the United States — attended the ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park near Ground Zero. The ambassador from the European Union Delegation to Japan attended for the first time.

Representatives of bereaved families from every prefecture also took part.

In his Peace Declaration, Matsui spoke of the experiences of two A-bomb survivors from among 73 letters sent to the city by survivors. "I'd like to convey the hibakusha A-bomb survivors' experiences and wishes for peace to everyone in the world," said Matsui, whose mother survived the blast on Aug. 6, 1945.

Matsui said he hoped that people and areas affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami — which triggered the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant — would recover from the disaster. He also called on the central government to review energy policies and adopt concrete measures. "There are people who advocate breaking free from nuclear power or call for more use of renewable energy," he said.

After Matsui spoke, children's representatives Masahiro Fukuhara, 11, a sixth-grader at Misaki Primary School, and Nanoka Fujita, 11, a sixth-grader at Koi Primary School, said, "We pledge that we'll take action to create a future full of dreams and hopes."

A list of A-bomb victims, including the names of 5,785 people and a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing who died during the past year, was placed in the monument for A-bomb victims.

The total number of A-bomb survivors in the nation was 219,410 as of the end of March.

In his speech at the ceremony, Kan said Japan should aim to create a society that is not dependent on nuclear power, following the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

"(The government) is working to revise the nation's energy policy from scratch. We deeply regret the 'security myth' of nuclear power, and will implement drastic measures to ensure safety while at the same time pursuing a society not dependent on nuclear power," he said.

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