Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project
For Immediate Release:
Oct. 16, 2000
Public Citizen Delivers Radiation Protection to Congress
Americans Won't Be Protected From Radiation Poisoning in a Nuclear Accident
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- To emphasize the lack of protection for Americans in the
event of a nuclear accident, Public Citizen today delivered to every member
of Congress a chemical designed to protect against radiation poisoning.
In letters that were hand-delivered to every senator and representative,
Public Citizen included packets of potassium iodide (KI), which is extremely
effective at blocking the absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid.
One of the elements released during a meltdown is radioactive iodine.
"In case of an accident at one of the 103 aging nuclear reactors in the
United States, Congress now has the opportunity to protect itself from the
radioactive iodine released into the environment," said Wenonah Hauter,
director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.
"Unfortunately, due to decades of delay by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC), the American public is not afforded this same opportunity."
The effectiveness of KI was recognized in 1977 by the National Council on
Radiation Protection. The Food and Drug Administration in 1978 authorized
its use for the general public. However, at the time of the Three Mile
Island (TMI) accident, potassium iodide was not available in quantities
sufficient for the population within a 20-mile radius of TMI. More than 20
years after the Three Mile Island meltdown, the NRC has yet to stockpile KI
for use in the next nuclear accident.
"While the United States has more nuclear reactors than any other country,
the protection afforded American citizens is second-rate," said James
Riccio, senior analyst with Public Citizen. "The obfuscation and delay that
have characterized the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's deliberations on this
matter is intolerable. The NRC is treating Americans like second-class
Potassium iodide was used successfully in Poland in the wake of the
Chernobyl accident. As a result, that country is not experiencing the
epidemic of thyroid cancers that plague children in countries such as
Ukraine that failed to distribute the drug. Other nations already stockpile
potassium iodide; they include Sweden, Finland, The United Kingdom, Germany,
France, Canada, the Czech Republic and Russia.