Article published Wednesday, April 3, 2002|
Iodide pill supported as nuclear
Ohio prepares for
By TOM HENRY
OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Ohio appears to have
committed itself to stockpiling special thyroid pills for thousands
of people who live within 10 miles of three FirstEnergy Corp.
nuclear plants, including the Davis-Besse nuclear facility in Ottawa
The Ohio Department of Health has acknowledged there
is "overwhelming support" for making potassium iodide pills
available to the public free of charge, ending years of speculation
about how state and local emergency workers would accommodate the
general public in the event of a nuclear accident.
decision will not be official until J. Nick Baird, state health
department director, formally notifies the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission. That paperwork is expected to be filed in May, said Jay
Carey, a state health department spokesman.
On Friday, state
health officials completed the final draft of a nine-page policy
that would be used as a guideline for initiating the program. That
draft was presented for discussion Monday in Columbus at the
quarterly meeting of a state panel called the Utility Radiological
Safety Board, he said.
No formal action was taken. But the
director is expected to proceed with his plan after it is reviewed
later this month by Gov. Bob Taft. Local emergency agencies are
being given until April 19 to comment on it, Mr. Carey
"The discussion has gone from should [potassium iodide]
be distributed to how it should be distributed," he said, adding
that the response from three recent public hearings was clearly in
favor of the pills.
The pills could provide some extra peace
of mind for 16,500 people who live within the immediate 10-mile
evacuation zone around Davis-Besse, as well as thousands who live
within 10 miles of the Perry nuclear plant east of Cleveland or the
Beaver Valley nuclear complex in western Pennsylvania.
evacuation zone for Beaver Valley affects the easternmost part of
Ohio because it extends across the Ohio-Pennsylvania state
The debate is older than some of the nationís 103
Ohio began rethinking its position a few
years ago - long before the corrosion problem at Davis-Besse was
identified last month.
In 1997, the NRC encouraged states to
participate and even offered to pick up initial costs. By the spring
of 1999, though, it withdrew that offer because of
Then, just before Christmas of 2000, the regulatory
agency put the offer back on the table. It has acknowledged that
interest in it has gained some momentum following the Sept. 11
The biggest question mark: Whether the
pills would provide a false sense of security and impede an
Scientists have agreed they could help people
closest to nuclear plants avoid certain types of cancer by blocking
the thyroid glandís uptake of radiation.
officials donít doubt that now, but some - including those in
Michigan - continue to express reservations about whether people
would become more reluctant to leave their homes.
still need to be worked out about how the pills would be distributed
But, according to the draft policy, the state health
department wants to make a two-day supply available to permanent
residents who live within 10-mile evacuation zones, then stockpile
the rest of the pills for people who would seek treatment at
monitoring and decontamination centers during a crisis.
pills have been stockpiled for years for emergency workers,
health-care providers, and others, including prisoners and hospital
patients, who could not be evacuated immediately.
important as the events of Sept. 11 was the U.S. Food and Drug
Administrationís recently issued guidance for the
Among other things, it said there is little chance of
experiencing dangerous side effects from the drug.
Morris, president of a pharmaceutical company in New York called
Anbex, told The Blade last night he expects final FDA instructions
to simplify dosages for all age groups by telling consumers to split
pills in half only for children less than a year old.
others will be encouraged to take an adult dosage of one pill a day,
Anbex is under contract by the NRC to produce all
potassium iodide pills that the government is distributing to the
It is being paid $1,068,000 to produce the
first six million tablets - which comes to a cost of 17.8 cents per
pill, Mr. Morris said.
The pills, per FDA direction, have a
shelf-life of five years, Mr. Morris said.