Culture 2 min read

France is Giving Away Iodine Pills to its Residents, Here's Why

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France intends to distribute radioactive-blocking iodine pills to an additional 2.2 million people living near the country’s 19 nuclear power plants. According to regulators, the medication is supposed to protect the residents in case of accidental radioactive leaks.

Nuclear power is the primary source of energy in France. With a generation of 379.1 TWh or 71.6 percent of the country’s total production of 519.4 TWh, France is the most nuclear-dependent nation in the world.

Following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the French nuclear safety regulator, Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (ASN) introduced a couple of safety measures. These include building safety systems that can withstand environmental threats as well as training an elite force to tackle nuclear accidents.

In 2016, five years after the nuclear accident in Japan, France gave iodine to residents within 6.2 miles of a nuclear plant.

Now, the nuclear safety authority is extending the safety radius to 12 miles of each plant. That means, about 375,000 households and nearly 200,000 institutions such as schools will receive the pills.

According to ASN, the agency will send a letter to the affected residents, including a voucher to collect the iodine tablets from nearby pharmacies. The message will also contain instructions on how to act in case of a nuclear accident.

In a statement to the press, the ASN said:

“In this context, an information campaign, as well as a preventive distribution campaign for iodine tablets, are being launched to benefit all residents who live next to nineteen French nuclear power plants, within a 10 to 20 km radius.”

How can Iodine Pills Protect People Against Radiation?

Although iodine does not have a direct anti-radiation effect, it indirectly offers some protection.

During nuclear accidents, the uranium at the core of a reactor splits into smaller atoms, most notably the iodine – 131, a radioactive iodine isotope. Since the thyroid gland is always iodine hungry, it can absorb the radioactive element, which could lead to cancer years later.

However, using stable iodine could prevent the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine.

The French Nuclear Safety Authority noted:

“If radioactive iodine is released into the environment, taking stable iodine is one of the most effective ways of protecting the thyroid.”

Read More: How Lasers Could Solve a Global Nuclear Waste Problem

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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