Monday, February 18, 2002

200,000 Ohioans living near nuclear plants to receive pills

State recommending anti-radiation pill distribution

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — Ohio health officials say they will meet with local leaders and residents of communities near power plants before distributing pills that are supposed to offer some protection against radiation release.

        The state, which is recommending free potassium iodide pills be supplied to about 200,000 people who live within 10 miles of nuclear power plants, will hold meetings over the next few weeks near the Davis-Besse plant in Port Clinton, the Perry plant in North Perry and the Beaver Valley plant in western Pennsylvania.

        FirstEnergy Corp., which owns the plants, has said any radiation release is unlikely.

        The pills, which can be obtained through the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, stop the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine, which can guard against thyroid cancer and other diseases that could result from radiation exposure.

        Each person would receive two tablets, which don't guard against all types of radiation.

        Jay Carey, an Ohio Health Department spokesman, said some logistical problems must be worked out before the pills could be distributed in Ohio.

        Officials will discuss whether to give out the pills before an accident or at special distribution centers set up after a radiation release. They also will have to figure out how to persuade people that the pills are not a substitute for evacuation.

        So far, nine other states have taken up the NRC's offer to distribute the pills. Some states were prompted by concerns of increased vulnerability of nuclear plants after the Sept. 11 attacks.

        About half the NRC's supply of 7 million pills will be distributed to New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, Florida, Connecticut, Alabama and Arizona, said Patricia Milligan, an emergency planning specialist at the NRC. The agency is spending $1.2 million for the pills.


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