The Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block has said that next year everyone living in Belgium should have been given iodine pills to protect them against consequences of a nuclear disaster. However, the office of the Interior Minister Jan Jambon says that a binding decision on the issue won’t be taken until the federal nuclear disaster plan comes up for discussion this month (June).
Currently everyone in Belgium that lives within a 20 kilometre radius of a nuclear power station is given iodine pills. The pills protect the thyroid against radioactive iodine that would escape into the air as a result of a disaster at a nuclear reactor. Radioactive iodine causes thyroid cancer.
The High Council for Health that advises the nuclear watchdog FANC has now advised that the 20km radius is too small and advises that those within 100km radius of a nuclear power station should be given free iodine.
The Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block said in the Health Select Committee that she intends to follow the High Council for Health’s advice.
If we take a 100km radius around each nuclear power station in our own country and in neighbouring countries then there is not one square centimetre of our country that is not covered”, Ms De Block.
“In accordance with the High Commission for Health’s advice, will extend the distribution to a radius of 100km in the whole country”.
An official decision will be taken later this year when the Nuclear Disaster Plan is reviewed.
If Ms De Block’s proposal is approved, iodine tablets will be taken to pharmacies all over the country. If a nuclear accident were to occur the population would be advised to pick up the pills from their local pharmacy. Children, pregnant women and women that are breast feeding are given priority. – vrt