Monday, August 28, 2006

Correcting the Record on Three Mile Island

An August 19, 2006 story in the Boston Herald concerning the distribution of KI tablets around U.S. nuclear power plants contained the following paragraph that caught my attention:

KI pills help absorb radiation and can thwart thyroid cancer if people take them soon after exposure. Studies have shown the pills could have severely reduced cancer caused by meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
Here's Diane Screnci of the NRC in a letter to the editor that appeared in today's edition of the newspaper:
I'’d like to correct a statement ("“Markey rips Bush over delay in radiation pill handout," Aug. 19). The story said, "“Studies have shown the pills could have severely reduced cancer caused by meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl."”

Detailed studies of the radiological consequences of the TMI accident have been conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services), the Department of Energy, Pennsylvania and others. Those comprehensive investigations have concluded that in spite of serious damage to the reactor, most of the radiation was contained and that the actual release had negligible effects on the physical health of individuals or the environment. Unlike Chernobyl, there was such a small amount of iodine released at TMI that it couldn'’t be found, only calculated. Without iodine, there is no threat to the thyroid and no need for KI.
For more on the TMI accident and a list of the health studies conducted in its aftermath, click here. NEI has also published a number of fact sheets that look at the issue of KI distribution in detail:

Potassium Iodide Use Must Be Science-Based

Use of Potassium Iodide Secondary Measure in the Event of a Radioactive Release

Emergency Preparedness Near Nuclear Power Plants

As we saw last week, junk science is a real problem for the nuclear industry. While I applaud the Boston Herald for publishing the letter from NRC, the original story should have had links embedded in it that pointed to the actual source of the "studies" that the reporter was referring to.

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