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Discrimination under the radioactive plume via Beyond Nuclear International

Potassium iodide distributed in Canada is denied Americans

By Keith Gunter

In the wake of the still ongoing March 2011 Fukushima disaster, governments in Europe and Canada began implementing more pro-active radiological disaster plans — including pre-distribution of potassium iodide (KI) in reactor emergency planning zones (EPZs). Potassium iodide is now directly delivered in advance to populations around nuclear plants throughout Europe, including Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland. However, no such program exists in the United States.

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KI is a safe, stable form of iodine and is commonly used to iodize table salt. If ingested in prescribed doses in time when a nuclear accident occurs, it saturates the thyroid and blocks the absorption of radioactive iodine-131. Exposure to iodine-131 has been definitively linked to increased rates of thyroid cancer, most demonstrably after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Ukraine, and the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

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n response to the Chernobyl accident, the government of Poland implemented an effective distribution program for potassium iodide that dramatically reduced the incidence of thyroid cancer in children there. A massive radioactive cloud persisting for many days included radioactive iodine-131 that caused thousands of thyroid cancers. Even 30 years later, thyroid cancers continue to be diagnosed among those exposed as children in Ukraine, Belarus, Southern Russia, and beyond, where KI was not promptly distributed, or not distributed at all.                        

The importance of KI pre-distribution before a meltdown was again underscored by the intentional decision not to distribute KI in the days of chaos after the Fukushima meltdown. Independent research shows increased thyroid cancer rates among children from Fukushima. Official government research does not point to an increase, but their research methods and reporting have been called into question.

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Canadian citizens in the “line of fire” for potential radiation exposure, should Fermi-2 suffer a severe accident, are now being provided KI as mandated in December 2017 by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Ontario Provincial Government.

Americans living on the US side of the border are not being afforded equal preparedness and protection by their nuclear safety and public health officials.

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So if the worst happens at Fermi-2 (a controversial General Electric Mark-1, the largest Fukushima-design reactor in the world), potassium iodide isn’t an anti-radiation pill offering blanket protection for the public. But mass distribution of KI before any accident, along with evacuation and sheltering, can be a buffer for those most vulnerable to radioactive iodine’s ravaging effects.

The hope and expectation is that the Ann Arbor City Council will adopt its Environmental Commission’s recommendation, leading to more cities and municipalities following suit, creating public pressure on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to reasonably upgrade the state’s nuclear accident preparedness programs. This will be no easy task, given the collective clout of nuclear electric utilities and an entrenched NRC that still sees no reason for rational protective action despite improved emergency preparedness next door in Canada and throughout Europe.

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