Panel: Give iodine tablets to homes near nuclear plants

February 25, 2012

By YURI OIWA/ Staff Writer

Stable iodine should be provided to households within a 50-kilometer radius of nuclear power plants to give them an immediate defense if an accident occurs, a Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan subcommittee said Feb. 24.

Stable iodine is ingested to prevent exposure to radiation from radioactive iodine, which can cause thyroid cancer.

The subcommittee said the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant showed that stable iodine may not reach residents in time if they are distributed after an accident occurs.

Its proposals will be soon submitted to a working group that has been reviewing the government’s anti-disaster guidelines.

The subcommittee also proposed that local governments be allowed to advise residents to take iodine tablets without instructions from the central government if reactor conditions worsen or radioactive air doses exceed certain levels.

In the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan told the government’s response headquarters that it should use its authority to recommend that residents near the plant take iodine tablets.

But the advice was not relayed to the local response headquarters, and most residents did not ingest iodine tablets.

The subcommittee also recommended ingestion of stable iodine if radiation levels in the thyroid gland exceed 50 millisieverts. The proposed standards are stricter than 100 millisieverts under the current anti-disaster guidelines.

Currently, only people under 40 are advised to ingest stable iodine. But the subcommittee proposed that people aged 40 or older also take iodine tablets because scientists said they can develop thyroid cancer as well.

The subcommittee also called for examinations of thyroid glands or inside the nostrils for a small number of residents to determine internal exposure immediately after an accident.

In the Fukushima accident, only radioactive contamination on the body surface was checked.

By YURI OIWA/ Staff Writer
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The Kagoshima prefectural government was stockpiling iodine tablets as of December 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Kagoshima prefectural government was stockpiling iodine tablets as of December 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • The Kagoshima prefectural government was stockpiling iodine tablets as of December 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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