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WTF??? In the STrib:

Nuclear antidote chemical will be distributed

It will go to people living near the state’s two nuclear power plants and would provide some protection in an accident.

Tom Meersman, Star Tribune

Every person within 10 miles of Minnesota’s two nuclear power plants will receive vouchers for two free doses of potassium iodide, which would offer some protection in the event of a nuclear accident, state officials said Tuesday.

The state has received the first round of potassium iodide supplies from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and will distribute them later this year, the Department of Public Safety announced.

The supplies will go to businesses, schools and individuals who live and work near the Monticello and Prairie Island plants, each about 50 miles from the Twin Cities.

“People shouldn’t worry, because nothing has changed as far as the security and safety of the plants,” said Doug Neville, spokesman for the department’s division of homeland security. “Nothing has changed as far as our plans to be sure we’re ready in the unlikely event of something happening.”

The state has been discussing the measure with federal officials for two years, Neville said.

Twenty other states already have the supplies.

Although the state expects that about 85,000 people will live within the two plants’ 10-mile emergency planning zones by 2010, it will receive about 320,000 doses in tablets and 50,000 liquid doses, which are easier for children to take. The extra supplies will allow a tribal casino and city hotels and restaurants to give them to patrons if needed.

Potassium iodide helps protect the human thyroid gland, particularly vulnerable to certain types of radiation, by not letting it absorb dangerous radioactive iodine that might be released in a nuclear accident.

“This isn’t like a magic radiation pill,” Neville said. “The preferred method of protecting the public … is evacuation.” Potassium iodide is just another layer of protection, he said, in case people cannot be evacuated quickly because of weather, traffic or other problems.

Some welcome plan

The Prairie Island tribal community, whose nearest homes are 600 yards from the plant, had been considering getting potassium iodide on its own and welcomed the announcement, said spokesman Jake Reint.

Stan Slessor, Red Wing schools superintendent, said all city schools, with 3,200 students and staff members, are within 10 miles of the nuclear plant. He said the district’s chief nurse has been discussing use of potassium iodide supplies with state, utility and local emergency planners for months.

“It’s fairly early in the process,” said Slessor. “We’re working on our plan” for storing and using the potassium iodide and will consult with parents about it.

Within 10 miles of the Monticello plant are all or part of the Monticello, Maple Lake, Big Lake, Buffalo and Becker school districts.

Rick Wolfsteller, Monticello’s city administrator, had not heard about the potassium iodide supplies until told by a reporter. Although Wright County handles much of the emergency planning in the area, he said he was surprised that his office had not been informed.

“This might make people kind of wonder why this is being done now, since the plant has been here since 1970,” he said. “It will make people more alarmed than necessary unless there’s a good information campaign about why they’re doing it and what’s the benefit.”

Tom Meersman â?¢ 612 673-7388

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