By Michael Mariotte

Fukushima today, with hundreds of tanks holding radioactive water. Asahi Shimbun file photo.

As the fifth anniversary of the onset of the continuing Fukushima nuclear disaster approaches, Mary Olson, director of NIRS Southeast office in Asheville, NC and Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates are on a five-week speaking/listening tour of Japan. We will be posting Olson’s “tour diary” beginning today and continuing with new posts through March 11, the day the disaster began.

I have been to speak at the global Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna (December 2014) and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review at the United Nations in 2015. Now, finally I am here in Japan for a five-week speaking tour during February and March 2016. Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates is here too.

In 2011, in the week that this nuclear disaster began, I became consumed by a question that women (3 or 4 of them at various public speaking events) had asked me: is radiation more harmful to women? This question had, at the time, made me deeply uncomfortable; for 20 years I had been serving as an educator and networker for grassroots people impacted by the nuclear industry and its spewing of radioactivity. I had sat at the knees of so many icons of radiation protection (Gofman, Bertell, Stewart, Morgan, Wing, Caldicott) that I was confused. I had never heard of gender as a risk factor, and indeed, it had never occurred to me to ask. So the events of March 2011 suddenly made this matter urgent.

Skipping over many chapters in this story (you can find most of it here): and here:

I found the answer: yes, gender is a risk factor! It is highly significant (100% difference) in young children, birth to five years where exposure results in cancer, at some point in life, twice as often in girls exposed to ionizing radiation compared to boys exposed in the same age group and radiation level. How do we know? The National Academy of Science printed 60 years of data taken from the horrific events of 1945 when our US government used indiscriminate force (A-Bombs) on cities full of people. From the horror of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki comes the only data set (big) that has both genders and all ages. There are many problems with this data, but from the atomic ashes comes the very important news: we must protect little girls 10 times more than the “Reference Man” currently used in standard-setting. Independent from my analysis, the same finding has been confirmed three times, making it “settled science.” Adult women are also harmed by radiation more than adult men: for every two men who died of cancer after exposure, three women died. To me, even now at 58 years old, 50% is a lot!

Steve Leeper (left) and Arnie Gundersen (right).

I am here to listen, and to share this news here in Japan. Arnie Gundersen is here to speak, listen and collect data. Our …read more

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