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