Public Citizen Delivers Radiation Protection to Congress

Oct. 16, 2000

Public Citizen Delivers Radiation Protection to Congress

Americans Wont Be Protected From Radiation Poisoning in a Nuclear Accident

WASHINGTON, D.C. — To emphasize the lack of protection for Americans in the event of a nuclear accident, Public Citizen today delivered to every member of Congress a chemical designed to protect against radiation poisoning.

In letters that were hand-delivered to every senator and representative, Public Citizen included packets of potassium iodide (KI), which is extremely effective at blocking the absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid. One of the elements released during a meltdown is radioactive iodine.

“In case of an accident at one of the 103 aging nuclear reactors in the United States, Congress now has the opportunity to protect itself from the radioactive iodine released into the environment,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizens Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Unfortunately, due to decades of delay by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the American public is not afforded this same opportunity.”

The effectiveness of KI was recognized in 1977 by the National Council on Radiation Protection. The Food and Drug Administration in 1978 authorized its use for the general public. However, at the time of the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident, potassium iodide was not available in quantities sufficient for the population within a 20-mile radius of TMI. More than 20 years after the Three Mile Island meltdown, the NRC has yet to stockpile KI for use in the next nuclear accident.

“While the United States has more nuclear reactors than any other country, the protection afforded American citizens is second-rate,” said James Riccio, senior analyst with Public Citizen. “The obfuscation and delay that have characterized the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s deliberations on this matter are intolerable. The NRC is treating Americans like second-class citizens.”

Potassium iodide was used successfully in Poland in the wake of the Chernobyl accident. As a result, that country is not experiencing the epidemic of thyroid cancers that plague children in countries such as Ukraine that failed to distribute the drug. Other nations already stockpile potassium iodide; they include Sweden, Finland, The United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, the Czech Republic and Russia.

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