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FAQ: Japanese Nuclear Energy Situation

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Mar/22/2011

The state of Florida has set up a 24-hour hotline to address questions from the public and the media relating to concerns over the nuclear power plant situation in Japan.

Florida Bureau of Radiation Control

4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin #C21
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1741
Phone: (850) 245-4266
Fax: (850) 487-0435
24-hour Radiological Emergency Number: (407) 297-2095
http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/radiation/

Click here for a fact sheet prepared by the Nuclear Energy Institute with answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

Answers to the two most frequently asked questions in Florida are below.

How serious are the releases of radiation from Fukushima Daiichi? Do they represent a threat to human health? Will we see an increase in cancer rates in future years?

As a result of fuel damage in at least four of the Fukushima reactors, significant releases of radioactive materials have been detected at the site. The implications of these releases on the health and safety of the public are not yet fully understood. The Japanese government implemented emergency planning procedures and evacuated residents within a 12.5-mile radius of the plant before the radiation releases were detected. Authorities are also distributing potassium iodide tablets to specifically protect against exposure from radioactive iodine that may be present in the releases and are monitoring the evacuees for potential exposure. Any speculation about possible health effects would be premature until more accurate and complete data becomes available.

• Do the events indicate that iodine tablets should be made widely available during an emergency?

The thyroid gland preferentially absorbs iodine. In doing so it does not differentiate between radioactive and nonradioactive forms of iodine. The ingestion of nonradioactive potassium iodide (KI), if taken within several hours of likely exposure to radioactive iodine, can protect the thyroid gland by blocking further uptake of radioactive forms of iodine. KI does not protect any other part of the body, nor does it protect against any other radioactive element.

The NRC has made available KI tablets to states that have requested it for the population within the 10-mile emergency planning zone (EPZ) of a nuclear reactor. If necessary, KI is to be used to supplement other measures, such as evacuation, sheltering in place, and control of the food supply, not to take the place of these actions. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration have published guidance for state emergency responders on the dosage and effectiveness of KI on different segments of the population. According to the EPA guidance, “KI provides optimal protection when administered immediately prior to or in conjunction with passage of a radioactive cloud.”

Populations within the 10-mile emergency planning zone of a nuclear plant are at greatest risk of exposure to radiation and radioactive materials including radioactive iodine. Beyond 10 miles, the major risk of radioiodine exposure is from ingestion of contaminated foodstuffs, particularly milk products. Both the EPA and the FDA have published guidance to protect consumers from contaminated foods within a 50 mile radius.

For more information from the Nuclear Energy Institute, visit:
http://www.nei.org/newsandevents/information-on-the-japanese-earthquake-and-reactors-in-that-region

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