May 2011: Congress to Obama: Fully Implement Nuclear

May 10, 2011: Congress to Obama: Fully Implement Nuclear “Emergency Pill” Law

In Wake of Fukushima Meltdown, Bipartisan Group of 30 Members Join in Support of 2002 Law Requiring Potassium Iodide for Residents Living within 20 Miles of Nuclear Plants
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) led a letter signed by 30 House Members sent yesterday to President Barack Obama calling for full implementation of the 2002 law that requires distribution of potassium iodide – also called KI – to Americans living within a 20 mile radius of a nuclear power plant. Although this law has been on the books since 2002, it has yet to be implemented. Previously, distribution of KI was limited to just those within 10 miles, and only to states that requested it from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In Japan, the NRC recommended a fifty-mile evacuation zone for U.S. citizens and potassium iodide was made available for military personnel, Americans working in the disaster relief effort, and other Americans living in or visiting Japan.

“We write to urge you to implement the 2002 law requiring the distribution of potassium iodide to the people who live within 20 miles of nuclear power reactors in order to protect the Americans in at least 33 States against the possibility of a radioactive iodine release from a nearby nuclear reactor,” wrote the Representatives in the letter to President Obama. “If an earthquake, terrorist attack, or accident caused a radiation release in the United States, one of the greatest risks to health comes from radioactive forms of the chemical element iodine.”
Potassium iodide has been found to protect individuals, especially young children, from the cancer-causing releases of radioactive iodine by flooding it with stable iodine so that the gland cannot take up the cancer-causing radioactive form. The Food and Drug Administration has found that inhalation of radioactive iodine is of particular concern for those residing in the immediate area of a nuclear accident or otherwise directly exposed to radiation. With several large population centers within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant, rapid evacuation may not be a viable option for residents.
“Our experience with Hurricane Katrina, and the Japanese experience shows just how difficult it can be to rapidly evacuate large population centers.” wrote the Representatives. “Distribution of potassium iodide now, before the unlikely event of a disaster, is the prudent course.”
A copy of the letter to President Obama can be found HERE .

Rep. Markey amended the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 to make potassium iodide available to state and local governments to meet the needs of all persons living within a 20-mile radius of a nuclear power plant.