NRA panel looks to distribute iodine tablets to households near Japan’s nuclear plants

Kyodo

A panel under the Nuclear Regulation Authority agreed in principle Tuesday to distribute iodine tablets to households living close to nuclear power plants.

The medical-related panel, which is studying ways to mitigate radiation exposure in the event of a disaster, is considering providing households within a 5-km radius of any nuclear power plant with iodine pills to help lessen the chances of developing thyroid cancer due to fallout. It also plans to consider whether to extend the radius to people living within 30 km from an atomic plant.

The panel plans to reach a final decision by March for inclusion into the country’s nuclear disaster response guidelines that were compiled in light of the triple-meltdown calamity that started last year at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

NRA Commissioner Kayoko Nakamura, who is also on the panel, said it is necessary to ensure recipients of the iodine tablets are aware that they do not need to take them unless they are instructed to do so in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Details need to be further worked out, including the timing of the distribution and whether to provide iodine in syrup form for babies. The NRA may make the final decisions, or local-level authorities more versed on their situations may be the ultimate authority, the NRA’s secretariat said during a meeting of the panel.

In the Fukushima crisis, residents living within a 20-km radius of the plant and even in areas beyond had to flee from their homes.

The evacuation process caused significant confusion and the central government’s instructions regarding the use of iodine pills were delayed, and there were shortcomings reported regarding the distribution of the drug.