KI: Truth or Lies?

  1. Wassup?

KI (potassium iodide) is being distributed right now within the 10 kilometre “zones” of the Pickering & Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations (PNGS & DNGS) – two very large nuclear generating stations (10 operating reactors altogether; 6 at Pickering, 4 at Darlington) located east of Toronto, Canada’s largest city.

Direction sign to Nukes
Direction sign to Nukes

<graphic shows distances from downtown Toronto>

(KI distribution is also happening around the very large Bruce nuclear station on Lake Huron.)

This is by order of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada’s federal nuclear “regulator.” More details below.

So, if you live in the 10 K “zone” around PNGS or DNGS, you will be receiving KI pills (by mail).

For the record, 2 things:

  • The DNA group was calling for KI pre-distribution back in 1997 (possibly even earlier) – specifically, for the emergency evacuation zones to be expanded from 10 K to 30 K, and for KI to be pre-distributed to everyone within the 30 K zone.
  • In New Brunswick, every resident has received KI in the 12 K “planning” zone, as well as within the 20 K “planning” zone of the Point Lepreau plant – since 1982 (they are delivered there door-to-door).

More “official” information about this program here.

KI Resources page on this site.

  1. Why KI?

Potassium iodide will protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine in the event of a nuclear accident. Children are particularly in need of this protection and particularly susceptible to thyroid cancer if not so protected.

Thus, having KI on hand in the event of a serious nuclear accident is a protective measure.

Having it ahead of time is essential, since during the disruption that inevitably follows a nuclear accident, obtaining KI pills is liable to be a low priority for citizens (& authorities) trying to cope with a plethora of other pressing challenges.

  1. Recent News About Thyroid Cancer – Japan

Last week Beyond Nuclear reported on recent studies about thyroid cancer incidence in Japan since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began on March 11, 2011.

Incidence is up dramatically, particularly in areas well west of the plant, where people were not evacuated.

Plenty of news about this on the Beyond Nuclear site here.

As well, the Toronto Star had an article about this recent research evidence.

KI pills were not distributed in Japan prior to the accident, nor at the time of the accident. A great many things went awry in the wake of the nuclear disaster. Evacuations were botched (including leaving people in what were known for weeks to be "hotspots)," orders to distribute KI fell between bureaucratic cracks, and overall, it is said, the “chain of command” in response to the nuclear disaster broke down.

(The posting ‘Fukushima: what really happened?’ has plenty of information about the disaster, as does the earlier posting ‘Fukushima: Emergency Planning? Failing Grade.’ Many quotes about the causes of the nuclear disaster can be found here.)

** Extremely important to note: thyroid cancer is not the only health impact possible. More on this below.

  1. Older News About Thyroid Cancer / KI Pills

As DNA members have learned from the American Thyroid Association 2014 brochure, KI proved to be pretty effective against thyroid cancer in Poland after the Chernobyl accident (April 26, 1986). According to this brochure, KI was distributed to more than 95% of the children within 3 days, & the rate of thyroid cancer “does not appear to have had an increase.” In Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, however, the children were not so fortunate. “As many as 3000 people exposed to that radiation developed thyroid cancer over the next 10 years. Most victims had been babies or young children living in Ukraine, Belarus and Ukraine.” “The region of excess risk extended up to a 200 mi radius from Chornobyl.”

Also mentioned: the cancers were “aggressive” & the associated health care costs continue to place a “heavy burden.”

In reading the book Voices from Chernobyl - The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (by recent Nobel Prize for Literature winner Svetlana Alexievich) I came across this comment about KI pills post-Chernobyl accident: “Those who could, got potassium iodide (you couldn’t get it at the pharmacy in my town, you had to really know someone).” <pg. 85> Not many could have taken it at the right time in any case, since the government failed to notify the citizenry until several days after the accident took place.

  1. The CNSC KI Directive – Fall 2014

Almost exactly a year ago (after much discussion, Fukushima “enhancements” to the Canadian nuclear plants, &, dare I say, public pressure) Canada’s nuclear “regulator” ordered that KI pills be pre-distributed to households within the 10 K “zone” of the country’s nuke plants.

(Discussing the "zones" around nuke plants is another whole topic. The zones are pretty much arbitrary, are designated by the industry itself for its own convenience, and, as we have learned from the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, radioactive plumes are certainly no respecters of man’s artificial boundaries, national borders or regional dividing lines. Radioactivity travels with the winds – far & wide & very unpredictably.)

So, at 4:01 pm on Friday, October 10th last year (the Friday of Canadian Thanksgiving, a long weekend here), CNSC sent out a news release about what they call REG.DOC.2.10.1 & the plan to distribute KI pills. They might have been aiming to miss the media with that late Friday afternoon release, but it didn’t work out that way, and there was a fair bit of media coverage that weekend & early the following week.

Then, 4 days later, on October 14th, CNSC sent out a message with this info: “Four independent third party studies explore and describe the benefits of distributing KI pills in advance to citizens within a 30-mile (48 kilometres) radius of a nuclear power plant, and the need for timely and correct consumption of these pills in the case of a nuclear accident.

The studies indicate such preventative measures can greatly reduce the accumulation of radioiodines in the thyroid gland, as well as the resulting radiation dose. This is an essential measure, since thyroid cancer –, most specifically in children and infants – is one of the most frequently observed consequences of a nuclear accident.

The studies also highlight the need for appropriate administrative policies and increased research on the topic of children and infant consumption of KI pills, to better understand both the effectiveness and the safety of these measures.

Read the studies:  <end of quote from CNSC message>

Note: the media apparently did not receive this info. This was sent merely to the many of us who are on an information list for CNSC messages. Interesting that the press got the 10 K info … but not the info about 10 K probably being insufficient.

Hmmmmmm.

  1. Switzerland

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the nuclear regulator did modelling to assess the likely impacts of a Fukushima-scale (International Nuclear Event Scale or INES Level 7) nuclear accident.

They carried this out transparently (in stark contrast to CNSC’s “severe accident study” debacle; the severe accident study that was clearly NOT a severe accident study – all thoroughly laid out in the posting ‘Severe Accident Study. Oops. Not really!), and concluded by sending out KI pills to all Swiss citizens within a 50 K radius of their nuke plants. Info on this here (en français).

The American Thyroid Association, btw, recommends pre-distribution to 50 miles (not kilometres) & comments “No one can predict how far a radioactive iodine cloud might spread” & recommends 3 levels of coverage. Check out the brochure for yourself here.

It also notes that the WHO (World Health Organization) endorses KI distribution and that France, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland “not only stockpile KI but predistribute KI to their populations.”

Finally, this brochure states under the heading ‘How Should KI Be Incorporated Into an Overall Emergency Plan?’ “KI is an adjunct to evacuation, sheltering (staying in an unventilated room with the doors and windows closed), and avoiding contaminated food, milk, and water. KI should not take the place of any other protective measures.”

  1. Note! A very important note

In all the hoopla surrounding this discussion taking place in Durham Region these days, it would be very easy to lose sight of a highly important fact: thyroid cancer is not – not by a long shot – the only possible/likely health consequence from exposure to radiation following a nuclear accident.

There are myriad others. Note links below in the Resources section for information about health consequences – not just of exposure following an accident, but from “routine” emissions from nuclear plants.

2nd note: As just stated above, KI does not constitute emergency planning! With all the fuss being made by CNSC, OPG, Ontario’s health ministry and the Durham Region Health Department, a person could be fooled into thinking something of substance is taking place here. Really, it is not!

KI is an “adjunct” and “should not take the place of any other protective measures.”

KI will not prevent an accident from happening. It will assuredly not make you "safe."

It will also not protect you (or your loved ones) against the many other possible health consequences if an accident does take place. Nor, of course, from so-called Routine Releases.

  1. Conclusion & Resources

I hope it’s becoming clear that it's probably a pretty sensible idea to develop a healthy skepticism about claims made by the nuclear industry (& our “authorities”) regarding so-called nuclear “safety” & official readiness/preparations for a nuclear accident (the latter, we note, meaning “off-site” emergency response, being a provincial, regional and municipal responsibility).

If you’re not convinced yet of the need for a little digging, please look through the list of recent postings on this blog that you’ll see over to the right-hand side of the page.

Relevant Resources

CHERNOBYL LINKS