Should You Buy Iodine Pills?
By By Stephen Bryen*
Wednesday, May 4th, 2016 @ 7:21PM
Growing nuclear proliferation global radical Islamist terror network has raised the possibility of nuclear terror attacks, including potential sabotage of nuclear facilities, as well as the use of conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material (dirty bomb).
Investigations after recent attacks in Belgium and France revealed the Islamist terrorists plans to attack nuclear reactor sites and associated laboratories, and that many facilities have been already penetrated by Jihadists. Incredibly, there is virtually no available evidence that suggests such threats have been removed. Instead, Belgium and Holland have now ordered iodine pills for their entire populations.
Why all of a sudden are they buying up such large supplies of these pills?
The reason for buying iodine pills is the danger of a nuclear accident, caused either by technical failure or a natural event such as an earthquake, tidal wave or flooding like what caused the still-continuing Fukushima crisis. The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz has calculated that such events may occur every 10 to 20 years, some 200 times more than earlier estimates.
When a nuclear reactor incident occurs, a variety of radioactive poisons are released, some of which become airborne and the rest contaminate the earth and underground and surface water sources. The typical radioactive fallout includes radioactive iodine (I131, I132), Cesium (Cs137, Cs134) and Tellurium (Te132). Radioactive iodine is a major uranium and plutonium fission product. It has a half-life of a little more than eight days, and it is the greatest immediate threat to populations near a nuclear reactor or nuclear storage site. (The other nuclear contaminants can last from hundreds to thousands of years!)
The human thyroid will rapidly absorb radioactive iodine, which can immediately cause severe radiation sickness and leading to a variety of cancers starting with thyroid cancer. However, if the thyroid is pre-treated with non-radioactive iodide salts, it will have no room to absorb radioactive iodine. Consequently, the best defense against radioactive iodine caused by a nuclear “event” is either a potassium iodide pill or liquid that can be rapidly administered before an individual has been exposed to radioactive iodine. These pills and liquids (for infants and the elderly) are what the Department of Homeland Security and the Europeans are stockpiling.
One of the earliest and worst nuclear accidents was at the secret reactor built by the Russians to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Called the Mayak (“Lighthouse”) reactor (similar to the US Hanford site, which remains highly contaminated), it was built between 1945 and 1948 and was prone to multiple accidents. The worst happened on September 27th, 1957 when a storage tank located at Kyshtym exploded. The Russians told no one, and information about the disaster only became available in 1979, twenty-two years later. The explosion of the storage tank destroyed more than two dozen villages and contaminated a vast area, rendering Lake Irtysh and the Techa River unusable and exposing more than 470,000 people to radiation.
The Fukushima accident involved three nuclear meltdowns; Chernobyl one. Both caused long-term population evacuations and no-go areas. The Chernobyl area has been closed off for thirty years. Fukushima may have convinced the Germans to consider shutting down nuclear reactors (there are 8 in Germany), and the Italians to reverse a decision to go back into the reactor business.
In the Unites States, the worst nuclear accident reported was, of course, Three Mile Island (1979) near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Since then we are repeatedly told that the country’s civilian and military nuclear facilities present no danger to the population because the best security measures are in place to prevent malfunction and to guard against intruders.
But accidents happen. If a reactor failure occurs in Maryland or Virginia, for example, it would create a massive crisis as people scramble to try to get their hands on iodine pills. It would be even worse if a dirty bomb hits New York City or downtown Washington DC.
While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) purchased 14 million iodine pills in 2014, many questions arise whether governments are capable of rapidly distributing the pills and liquids they have purchased. In Israel, which is under constant chemical, biological and nuclear threats, kits are pre-distributed and renewed on a regular basis.
The following steps are necessary to prevent nuclear terrorism and protect civilian populations against radiation disasters:
First – Securing nuclear facilities and the area around them. Bringing-in competent and powerful forces to guard the facilities against external attack and removing potential security risks inside. In the U.S., the National Guard may be called to protect the perimeter of nuclear sites, and the FBI to vet employees and validate security systems. In Europe, it means using NATO forces for perimeter protection and Interpol to check internal security and validate employees. Law-enforcement agencies should have the authority to remove anyone suspected of any connection to radical Islamic groups.
Second – Setting up a distribution system of response toolkits – using the Israeli model – for people living in the vicinity of nuclear installations and sensitive urban areas under threat; Ensuring ready-supply of potassium iodine in the hands of businesses and families now, not after a terrorist strike.
Third – Fighting to extinguish the jihadist movement and its terrorists abroad before they reach American soil and using whatever deterrence necessary to discourage sympathizers at home. The European’s wimpy approach to and accommodation of radical Islam resulted in growing attacks and penetration of nuclear facilities. The U.S. isn’t much better. To prevent the spread of the Islamic terrorism, radical Islamic movements and Muslims associated with them should be acknowledged as an existential threat and treated accordingly. Called the “Big Satan” by radical Shiite and Sunni Muslims alike, America should take all necessary steps to prevent the Islamist terrorist threat.
In the meantime, if you live anywhere near a nuclear reactor, especially if you live or work downwind from a reactor you should consider buying Potassium Iodide (Iodine) tablets for yourself and your family. They are readily available in the U.S. for individual purchase on the open market without a prescription. Check out the CDC website and consult your physician before ordering radiation toolkits and iodine pills
* Dr. Stephen Bryen is the former Director of the Defense Technology Security Administration and a fellow of the American Center for Democracy. Some parts of this article are from his new book, Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers (Transaction Publishers).