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Anti-Radiation Drug Will Be Offered to U.S. States
Published on Friday, December 21, 2001 by Reuters
Anti-Radiation Drug Will Be Offered to U.S. States
 
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency said on Thursday that it would give potassium iodide to states that want to stockpile the medicine in case of an attack against a nuclear power plant.

The drug has been shown to protect the body's thyroid gland if taken soon after radiation exposure.

Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has long criticized what he terms inadequate safety provisions at nuclear power plants, is among several lawmakers who have urged stricter security measures at the plants since the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Nuclear plants, which rank among the nation's most closely guarded facilities, are of particular concern because an attack could spew radioactive contamination over an area covering hundreds of square miles.

The regulatory commission said it had earmarked $800,000 to buy potassium iodide supplies for people living within about 10 miles of a nuclear plant. The United States has 103 nuclear power plants.

``The commission has found that potassium iodide is a reasonable, prudent and inexpensive supplement to evacuation and sheltering for specific local conditions,'' a statement said.

The drug will be given to states that request it within 30 days, according to the commission.

Alabama, Arizona and Tennessee already have potassium iodide stockpiled for people living near nuclear plants as part of emergency preparedness programs.

The agency took the action a month after Markey urged the federal government to stock the drug at homes and public buildings within 50 miles of a nuclear plant.

The Nuclear Control Institute, an activist group, said a direct, high-speed crash by a large passenger jet would likely penetrate the concrete walls of up to 4-1/2 feet that protect a nuclear plant's reactor.

Separately, Congress approved an extra $36 million in funding for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission so it could assess security at nuclear power plants.

The funds were included in a $20 billion supplemental spending bill for the Defense Department that was agreed on by House and Senate negotiators. The agency will study the safety design of nuclear plants security in the transportation, storage and use of nuclear materials.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited

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