In the culmination of a long-contested argument, the federal government has decided that it will not give out anti-radiation pills to millions of people who live 10 to 20 miles from a nuclear plant. The White House claims there are more effective ways to protect people in case of an accident or terrorist attack, reports USA Today.
The government already does stockpile the over-the-counter potassium iodide pills, which are designed to protect against thyroid cancer after radiation exposure, for the 4.7million people who live within 10 miles of a plant.
Not surprisingly, not everyone is happy about this development, including so-called thyroid cancer activists, as well as some members of Congress. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., called it "reckless endangerment of the American people."
How was this conclusion reached? More than five years ago, Congress had ordered wider distribution of the pills, to cover 33 states, in the wake of fears over terrorism. But there was a loophole that stated the plan could be scrapped if a better cancer prevention strategy was available.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has long opposed wider distribution of the pills, arguing that evacuation and protection from contaminated food are better ways to prevent cancer. The NRC has also complained that passing out pills might undermine public support for nuclear power. That argument doesn't sit well with this writer, because it would seem the public should be fully informed of significant threats to public health.
Why should the potential dangers of a technology be swept under the rug, out of sight and out of mind? This is particularly apparent given the woefully inadequate evacuation plans for many areas. Consider the horrendous gridlock that kept tens of thousands from evacuating along the Gulf Coast during Katrina and Rita, and then consider that there is an aging nuclear power plant just 40 miles from Manhattan.
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