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Markey again presses nuclear ‘emergency pill’ effort

A Massachusetts congressman is pressing for full enforcement of a law requiring the federal government to have adequate supplies of radiation “emergency pills” on hand for civilians living near nuclear power plants.  

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), on March 28, joined by public health and nuclear safety experts, called on the  White House to fully-implement his 10-year-old law that requires the government to have a supply of potassium iodide -- also called KI – pills stocked for the public living within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant.

Rep. Markey and leaders of the American Thyroid Association and Physicians for Social Responsibility wrote another letter on March 28 to White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, urging him to overturn a Bush administration decision not to implement the law.

Markey has repeatedly pushed over the years to get the law enforced, after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2002 began making the pills available to made 22 Massachusetts towns within only 10 miles of nuclear power plants upon request.

“After the Japanese nuclear meltdown, U.S. citizens need to have this emergency radiation pill available for their families,” Markey maintained. “Massachusetts citizens who live near the Pilgrim, Seabrook or Vermont Yankee nuclear power plants are being ignored by the government, with potentially dire consequences if an accident were to ever occur,” he said.

The pills, said Markey are safe, effective and inexpensive means of protecting against the cancer-causing effects of radioactive iodine that can be released into the atmosphere following a nuclear meltdown. Markey cited recent press reports, that radiation in some areas near the nuclear reactors that melted down in Fukushima, Japan surged to as much as 700 times normal levels before residents evacuated, highlighting the need for the medication to be stockpiled in private residences and other public facilities so that people can take it in the first critical hours after they are exposed to radiation, as they are in the process of evacuating the area.

Markey said in his letter that Bush decision not to implement the law fully is based on faulty assumptions, among them that a failure at a plant would take place over days, allowing evacuation. The Fukshima meltdown, he said shows that view is inaccurate.

In December 2009, Markey also wrote President Obama urging him to move forward with full implementation of the provisions. However, Markey said Dr. Holdren’s office wrote back in July of 2010 upholding the Bush administration’s position.

In March 2011, Rep. Markey sent a letter to Health and Human Services secretary Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as well as to Holdren, again urging the implementation of the radiation pill law.


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