Frustrated by U.S. inaction,
locals prepare for nuke terror
Distribution of anti-radiation tablets
by states, cities planning for worst
Posted: September 23, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com
Some officials are claiming federal ineptitude is leaving citizens without the tablets promised in 2002 when Congress passed the Bioterrorism Preparedness Response Act, which set out to provide KI pills to those living within 20 miles of a nuclear reactor to fight off the effects of radioactivity in the event of an accident or attack.
"We know that al-Qaida has long considered nuclear power plants to be a potential target for future attacks, said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., in a letter to President Bush. "It is now long past time for the final guidelines for potassium iodide stockpiling and distribution to be finished.
Some local governments aren't waiting for Washington to cut through the red tape.
In Massachusetts, for instance, the state legislature passed an amendment calling for the distribution of potassium iodide tablets to all Cape Cod-area towns surrounding the Pilgrim Nuclear Reactor. The first pills are expected to be handed out next month.
In Montgomery County, Pa., officials are distributing KI to schools, businesses and anyone living within a 10-mile radius of the Limerick Generating Station. They are also using the county's website to advise citizens about emergency planning.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is offering KI tablets at 15 locations for anyone living 10 miles from one of the state's five nuclear power plants.
Every person within 10 miles of Minnesota's two nuclear power plants is receiving vouchers for two free doses of potassium iodide from the state, which received supplies from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
But not everyone is persuaded the distribution of potassium iodide is a good idea.
In Ohio, for instance, the Perry School District is debating whether to restock its aging supplies of KI tablets.
Because of the Proximity of the Perry Nuclear Power Plant, the school district stocked up on potassium iodide five years ago. But the shelf life of the product is five years. That means the pills expire in 2007.
Administrators and school board officials don't want to spend another $1,000 to restock the pills that can prevent thyroid cancer due to exposure from radiation.
While some 20 states already have been involved in the distribution effort to some extent, others flatly refused to participate – even to the point of refusing to accept free potassium iodide from the federal government.
Kansas and Missouri are two such states.
State officials in Kansas argue that providing the potentially life-saving tablets to residents can give them a false sense of security. Some residents, they say, might dismiss evacuation warnings believing they are immune from harm.
Potassium iodide floods the thyroid to prevent the gland from absorbing radioactive iodine. One 130-milligram tablet a day is considered the proper dose in the event of a radiation threat.
The Ukraine government did not distribute potassium iodide after the world's worst nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986. Since then, some 3,000 cases of thyroid cancer, mostly among young people, have been blamed on radiation exposure. Meanwhile, in Poland, downwind from Chernobyl, the government distributed potassium iodide and witnessed no increase in thyroid cancer.
The American Thyroid Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Academy of Sciences all endorse keeping preventive doses of potassium iodide around.
Despite efforts to secure nuclear power plants from terrorist attack, the General Accountability Office issued a report in April finding that most plants were not prepared to repel a terrorist attack staged by a dozen or more heavily armed men.
A well-coordinated assault with 50-caliber rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers could easily take out security at most nuclear facilities in the U.S., say experts.
"Despite new security provisions – including expanded disaster coordination, more extensive background checks on personnel and stronger criminal penalties for those involved in wrongdoing – I remain concerned that the state of nuclear power plant security is not at the level it should be five years after September 11," said Sen, Chris Dodd, D-Conn.