Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is showing support for a movement to end nuclear weapons.

This weekend, the mayor will sign on to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Cities Appeal, which was made in support of the 2017 U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Alaska's nuclear impacts

According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks geophysical institute, between 1965 and 1971, the U.S. Department of Defense used the Aleutian Island of Amchitka to test nuclear warheads. While the island was uninhabited at the time, health concerns surrounding those tests linger. 

"There were people that had to construct the sites and there were people that had to detonate the nuclear weapons," said Kathleen Sullivan, a member of ICAN, which was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its role in achieving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. "There's also the nature and the water and the air. I think that we really don't understand what nuclear weapons mean."

A 2017 column in the Anchorage Daily News recounts the personal stories of some of those workers, many of whom reported cancers and other health complications as a result.

Anchorage biologist Pam Miller, on a mission for Greenpeace, found evidence of americium-241 and plutonium in freshwater plant samples at the edge of the Bering Sea in 1997, according to the geophysical institute.

"Miller said Greenpeace's findings are 'the tip of the iceberg' of contaminants leaking from the blast sites, but representatives for the Department of Energy, the successor to the Atomic Energy Commission, say their own tests prove otherwise," the article from the institute says.

A 2016 study by the U.S. Department of Energy concluded there was no subsurface migration of radioactive material on Amchitka Island.

The Associated Press reports samples tested in 2011 also showed no "excessive risk," according to the department. The department funds sample testing on Amchitka Island every five years. 

Signing the appeal

A representative of ICAN met with Berkowitz Thursday afternoon. On Friday, a spokesperson for the mayor said he made the decision to declare Anchorage an ICAN city.

The announcement is expected at an event titled "Hiroshima-Amchitka Legacies: What Future Can We Choose?" on Saturday, which runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Anchorage Museum. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the mayor's name. 

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