Even the Fukushima tragedy can’t get the NRC to change its position on KI. In a special report released last week, the Commission once again acknowledges that KI can help prevent radioactive iodine contamination, only to qualify its endorsement by stating the obvious – KI does not protect humans from other radioisotopes or organs other than the thyroid. It’s a little like saying water isn’t all that beneficial because while it may be critical if you’re dying of thirst, it’s not much help if you’re hungry.
What the report fails to mention is the Commission itself concluded ten years after Chernobyl that “…except for thyroid cancer, there has been no confirmed increase in the rates of other cancers” (NUREG-1633). KI may only be a prophylactic agent for radioactive iodine, but that doesn’t change the reality that contamination from radioactive iodine is the greatest risk most people will face if there is a nuclear catastrophe.
The report also fails to address the most dangerous policy championed by the Commission – that there is no risk from radioactive iodine if someone is further than 10 miles from an accident. There is no scientific basis for concluding a person or child is in danger at 9 miles but will always be safe at 11 miles. At Chernobyl, 97% of the first 750 cases of thyroid cancer occurred at least 30 miles from the reactor site. In Japan, dangerous levels of radioactive iodine were found on farms more than 30 miles and in drinking water more than 150 miles from the Fukushima reactor site.
Various governmental authorities in Japan, including our own State Department, did not impose an arbitrary 10 mile limitation on KI. We can only if there is a crisis in the United States, Americans in America will receive the same protection afforded Americans in Japan.
For a copy of the Commission’s report, click here: ML111861807
Every week we get an email asking the same question – what will it take to convince the federal government to finally stockpile KI? Unfortunately, so far, the answer appears to be nothing. Apparently, the nuclear disaster in Japan was not the wake-up call some had thought. The same appears true with recent reports of serious problems at some of our nation’s most prominent nuclear facilities and the discovery that the government’s evacuation plans are dangerously out-of-date.
Of course, everyone agrees something must be done, yet somehow, despite all this pervasive unanimity, nothing ever happens. The U.S. Senate announced it was working on drafting new legislation to address the horrible gaps in the country’s capabilities; it even held hearings, but that was months ago. Today, no bill has even been introduced let alone put to a vote. Worse, the Obama Administration, like its predecessor, appears content to gamble nothing will happen on its watch. Let the next Administration fix the problem. After all, the reasoning goes, the nuclear industry is accident-proof, right? And, if the public felt differently, they’d let us know.
So, for now, until the public says otherwise, there’s not much hope for change in Washington, D.C. When it comes to KI, America, we’re on our own.
It’s been 312 days, and Secretary Sebelius is still holding hostage a letter from thirteen members of the House of Representatives asking her to reconsider her refusal to stockpile KI for all Americans. Even the disaster in Japan, where the government was frantic to buy KI, the resulting panic in this country, and massive orders from other countries, haven’t been enough to make the Secretary even admit the letter exits.
In fairness, she has been busy. Just this last week, she had to attend the annual convention of Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, and she also had to choose winners in her Department-wide awards contest for innovative federal agencies. We’re guessing the folks that answer letters from Congress didn’t win. Then again, maybe they did.
It’s common knowledge that this Administration is outright contemptuous when it comes to Congress, but 312 days may be modern record for indifference. Plus, this wasn’t a case of a Democrat ignoring Republicans. Nearly half the signatories were Democrats. Apparently, Florida is not going to be part of the Obama Administration’s reelection calculus.
Here’s a copy of the letter:Delegtion letter to Sebelius
An alarming article in The Washington Post today reveals that the United States is still not ready for a nuclear emergency caused by an accident or terrorist attack. The Department of Homeland Security is quoted as saying, “current capabilities can only handle a few radiation injuries at any one time….there is no strategy for notifying the public in real time of recommendations on shelter or evacuation priorities.”
According to the story, the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile stopped purchasing KI two years ago and designated what they did have left as “excess.” The CDC still lists potassium iodide as one of only four drugs in the stockpile specifically for use in radiation emergencies. Other countries are not so hesitant. According to industry experts, government orders for KI have increased dramatically since the Fukushima nuclear plant, with one notable exception – the United States.
Here’s the article:Post Story
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) joined the growing number in Congress demanding that there be a sufficient stockpile of KI (potassium iodide) pills to protect the public. Similar calls to the Obama Administration have come from Rep. Young, Rep. Bilirakis and Rep. Markey. Last year, thirteen Florida representatives, led by Rep. Young and Rep. Wasserman-Schultz, made the same request.
At a forum in Chicago, the senators grilled nuclear industry officials about what they are doing to ensure the safety of those who live in Illinois. The state has 11 reactors. Joseph Klinger, assistant director of the state Emergency Management Agency, told the senators there would be a review of the stockpile of pills that help prevent radiation-induced thyroid cancer and the evacuation zones.
There has been no similar commitment from the Obama Administration. Unlike Mr. Klinger, no one from the White House or HHS has even acknowledged the issue. Is it indifference? Ignorance? Whatever the reason, the Administration’s failure to act is no longer just unacceptable. It’s dangerous.
Frustrated with the refusal of the Obama Administration to act, Representatives Bill Young (R-FL) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) have sent another letter demanding that the Secretary of HHS report back how she intends to correct the federal government’s failure to stockpile KI (potassium iodide). The Congressmen and eleven other bipartisan members of the Florida delegation made similar demands in June 2010. Since then, the tragedy in Japan has underscored what happens when the government is unprepared for a nuclear emergency.
“The ongoing nuclear tragedy in Japan should be a wake-up call to this Administration. We are in a unique position to act before there is a tragedy on our own soil,” the Congressmen said. “There is simply no excuse for failing to stockpile all necessary preventive measures, including KI, especially if the public may be required to remain in areas that could be contaminated until evacuation plans can be implemented.”
The Congressmen expressed frustration with the Administration’s refusal to act. “We realize that you take seriously your obligation to protect the American public’s health and safety; however, indifference and inattention are no longer an acceptable response,” they observed. “The time has come for the Department and the White House to act.
Click here for a copy of the letter: KI3rdletter
Even the nuclear crisis enveloping Japan isn’t enough to wake up an indifferent Obama Administration. The massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on Friday also created a crisis at the country’s nuclear power plants. Damage at the sites was extensive, and repair work was impeded by at least one massive explosion. Radioactive gas leaks have been reported, with radiation 1,000 times higher than normal levels. In response, the Japanese government has imposed a massive, military-led evacuation, clearing people away from at least two of the plants.
Despite the tragedy unfolding in Japan, the United States remains unprepared. The country does not have enough of even the most basic countermeasures, such as potassium iodide or KI, which would be needed to protect the general population from a nuclear emergency. Last June, 13 bipartisan representatives from Florida wrote HHS Secretary Sebelius, asking her to begin stockpiling KI at sufficient levels needed to protect the general public, as suggested by the National Academy of Sciences and required by Congress in the Bioterrorism Act of 2002.
To date, some eight months later, not only has the Administration refused to address this dangerous oversight. It hasn’t even answered the letter.
To see a copy of the letter, click here: Delegation letter to Sebelius