Saturday 16 November 2019

Minister expands nuclear power plant iodine zone

RadioactivityAll youngsters under the age of 18 and pregnant women who live within 100 kilometres of a nuclear power plant are being issued with iodine tablets, health minister Edith Schippers has told parliament.

Currently the under-40s who live within 10 kilometres of the Borssele reactor and 20 kilometres from the Belgian reactors in Doel are provided with iodine as a precaution. Schippers said she wants to increase the distance because youngsters and pregnant women are more vulnerable.

Schippers said she is currently developing a distribution system based on local chemists and health board offices.

Radioactive iodine – iodine-131 – is a major product of uranium fission and can be released into the air after a nuclear event. The thyroid gland quickly absorbs radioactive iodine, so by taking iodine pills, the thyroid can be filled up with ‘good iodine’ instead.

There have been several recent incidents at the Belgian reactors in Doel, on the banks of the Westerschelder estuary. The power plant was first opened in 1975 and should have been decommissioned last year. However, the Belgian authorities have agreed to keep it operational for a further 10 years because of a shortage of capacity.

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