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Monday, January 14, 2002

State ponders radiation pills

200,000 Ohioans live near nuclear plants

Local and wire reports

OAK HARBOR -- Neighbors of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station could receive pills protecting against radiation sickness if the state health department participates in a federal distribution program.

The state has studied the issue of stockpiling potassium iodide pills for several years in the event of a nuclear disaster.

"Were working in that direction of participating, but there are some logistical issues that have to be worked out," said Ohio Department of Health spokesman Jay Carey.

If state officials go with the plan, pills would be offered to residents near Ohio's two nuclear power plants -- Davis-Besse and the Perry Nuclear Power Plant east of Cleveland -- and one across the Pennsylvania state line in Beaver Valley.

About 200,000 Ohioans live within a 10-mile radius of the three plants.

The pills work by stopping the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine, which can guard against thyroid cancer and other diseases that could result from radiation exposure.

They must be taken within six hours of exposure, and don't guard against all types of radiation.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in December it would set aside $800,000 to help states pay for stockpiling the pills, which cost about a dime each and have a shelf life of five to seven years.

The issue became more prominent after September's terrorist attacks.