First, be aware that nuclear power is perhaps the safest energy source available for major electrical needs. That having been said, it can be made much safer by having potassium iodide or potassium iodate tablets available in case of a power plant accident. Such supplies can also decrease the risk of radiation in the event of detonation of a nuclear weapon.
Some states, though not my home state of North Carolina, are stockpiling potassium iodide (KI) tablets for use in such an emergency. You do not need to wait for government action; you can protect yourself.
The greatest risk from radiation release following a nuclear power plant accident or detonation of a nuclear weapon is from iodine131. This isotope of iodine is one of the products of uranium fission. The problem is that this isotope of iodine is concentrated by the body in one spot: the thyroid. Thus, the thyroid gets a much heavier radiation dose than any other part of the body. In the years following the 1986 Chernobyl accident, thyroid cancer is the only cancer to have seen a significantly increased incidence, and the increase in thyroid cancer there is huge. The World Health Organization estimates that a third of the children in parts of Belarus will develop thyroid cancer.
However, the thyroid takes only as much iodine as it can use. By consuming iodine-containing tablets for the days following radiation release during which exposure is greatest, the thyroid is saturated and will not take up much of the radioactive iodine131.
The half life of iodine131 is only eight days, so the time one needs protection is limited. In most cases I can imagine, within a few days either wind would have dispersed the radioactive material or we would have been evacuated.
Events that would trigger the need for potassium iodide are quite unlikely, but so are many events that we insure against. I see potassium iodide as an insurance policy against the unlikely event of a terrorist dirty bomb, a nuclear weapon detonation, or a reactor accident.
Read more on this at the following sites. The last reference links to a vendor of KI tablets for radiation protection.
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