Nuclear Regulatory Authority recommends iodine to stem radiation exposure

TOKYO —

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority has released guidelines following new research into the effects of exposure to nuclear radiation in humans.

The authority recommends that those living within a 30-km radius of a nuclear crisis of the magnitude of that at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant should be given iodine as quickly as possible. The authority’s research suggests that this should reduce by about 20% radiation that comes into contact with the thyroid gland while breathing, Fuji TV reported.

The guidelines also recommend that those living within 5 km of a disaster site be evacuated outside of the 30-km exclusion zone, where exposure to radioactive material is around 100 times lower. The authority added that the 30-km exclusion zone could be expanded in the case of adverse weather conditions.

Although the guidelines are the result of the authority’s latest research, the Nuclear Safety Commission recommended local authorities instruct evacuees leaving the exclusion zone to ingest stable iodine to protect against thyroid cancer back on March 16, 2011, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The recommendation was also made by the World Health Organization decades earlier. In a 1999 guideline, the WHO recommended the stockpiling of stable iodine. However, it added, “For adults over 40, the scientific evidence suggests that stable iodine prophylaxis not be recommended unless doses to the thyroid from inhalation are expected to exceed levels that would threaten thyroid function. This is because the risk of radiation induced thyroid carcinoma in this group is very low while, on the other hand, the risk of side effects increases with age.” 

Japan Today

  • 4

    caffeinebuzz

    Oh they don't say...Are all of these kinds of revisements and "new" recommendations going to be filed in a "Too Little Too Late", dossier?

  • 10

    Elvensilvan

    Does this mean that the government body now recognizes the fact that nuclear exposure is dangerous?

  • 10

    Speed

    I can't believe this is being recommended now. Almost two years later. Iodine tablets were the very first things I considered when the plants were exploding out radiation. What an irresponsible government this is.

  • 6

    Realistic

    after one an half years? Where were these guys hidden before?

  • 2

    Simperial

    The problem seem to be much worse according to The Examiner: http://smt.blogs.com/maridiary/2005/06/enjoytokyo_vie.html, http://www.examiner.com/article/fukushima-dire-warning-over-4-million-japanese-cancer-deaths

  • 5

    Disillusioned

    The recommendation was also made by the World Health Organization decades earlier. In a 1999 guideline, the WHO recommended the stockpiling of stable iodine.

    Ah, Japan! You've done it again! It is normal for them to ignore international pressure, but now the Japanese authority has suggested it (18 months too late( I wonder how long it will take them to implement it, if at all!

  • 2

    Jerome_from_Utah

    Well, if they are recommending supplemental iodine, why not supplemental potassium? Cesium is a Group I-A alkali metal that can react essentially the same as potassium. In the body, sodium is extra-cellular while potassium is intra-cellular meaning that cesium would tend to stay in the cell once it gets there. The object is to "head it off at the pass". Potassium is readily available as salt substitute such as Nu Salt here in the USA and employed to reduce blood pressure or make up potassium deficiency.

  • 10

    zichi

    So, they are expecting another nuclear disaster?

  • 4

    wanderlust

    And which local bureaucrat, community or government official will actually make the decision, and ensure that people receive their dose in time? When the reactors melted down, they already had stockpiles of potassium iodide (the palatable, absorbable form of iodine) ready for an emergency, but did not give them out....

  • 5

    Patric Spohn

    Zichi, exactly. Iodine has to be taken before being exposed in order to fully saturate your body and to stay safe. A little bit late now, no?

  • -3

    basroil

    These idiots are going to destroy children's thyroids with unnecessary iodine. They should follow the WHO/IAEA recommendation, since giving people 700 times more iodine than the body normally needs is not healthy. In fact, the recommended level for those over 40, the point where the benefits outweigh the risks, is about 5Gy (5Sv), far larger than anyone will ever be exposed to because of a civil reactor incident (other than workers at the plant).

    Lets not forget the KI can cause birth defects, so unless these people rethink their plans, we will see mass panic and people actually hurting themselves more.

  • 2

    Farmboy

    Well, if they are recommending supplemental iodine, why not supplemental potassium?

    If I understand correctly, they are recommending potassium iodide, a salt of iodine. What I don't understand is why this information was not already out there a long, long time ago, and why emergency supplies were not provided.

    Potassium Iodide prevents uptake of radioactive iodine, but doesn't block the uptake of cesium, I think. The main use is right after a radioactive event occurs, as it's not particularly healthy to take more often.

    I wish the NRA would release more positive info, and boost supplies, of Prussian Blue as well, as that would have some value now to people who have absorbed cesium.

  • -3

    basroil

    JeromefromUtahDec. 02, 2012 - 09:41AM JST

    Well, if they are recommending supplemental iodine, why not supplemental potassium? Cesium is a Group I-A alkali metal that can react essentially the same as potassium.

    Think of it this way:

    You can put ALL of the CS137 released by fukushima in your kitchen sink. While proper potassium balance helps shorten the biological halflife substantially, it won't do much in short term. KI on the other hand can cut biological halflife to pretty much only what it takes for you to go to the bathroom (iodine intake is a bit harder, needed amounts much lower). The issue with iodine is that it doesn't need to be eaten to get into your system.

    However, if you happen to be a potato or other produce, a potassium fortified soil can reduce CS137 levels in the final product several fold, enough to be safe to eat even from above legal limit farm soils. Since almost all the caesium you will ever ingest is from food, it's best to reduce the levels in foods and water rather than season yourself up with kg's of salt.

  • 2

    nandakandamanda

    Strange article, taken slightly out of context. The Nuclear Safety Commission has been meeting to look back at Fukushima, find out exactly what went wrong, and to draw up recommendations, general rule-of-thumb guidelines for the future, I believe. In consultation with doctors, they have somewhat cautiously recommended iodine intake as part of the plan of action, although the wording said that the iodine should be taken before any proposed exposure, whatever that means. Stay indoors, take your iodine in preparation to evacuate? (The above is only my impression from reading Japanese sources.)

  • -4

    basroil

    FarmboyDec. 02, 2012 - 10:36AM JST

    I wish the NRA would release more positive info, and boost supplies, of Prussian Blue as well, as that would have some value now to people who have absorbed cesium.

    While Prussian Blue is generally non-toxic, it is not recommended when the intake is less than 2mSv. It is generally reserved for medical accidents, and it does nothing about continued doses. It is best to reduce the amount of CS intake rather than take extra chemicals to remove something twice as fast (typical biological halflife is 70 days, halflife with blue is 30 days).

    The only positive info they could ever release is that they are doing away with circles and instead using actual fallout maps to determine evacuations, if needed. And if evacuations were needed, that they be done properly rather than quickly, since there is usually never a short term risk, only a long term one from exposure (but a huge short term risk from evacuations)

  • 2

    marcelito

    How about recommending turning away from N -power generation to stem radiation exposure instead? That would probably turn out fairly effective.

  • -4

    basroil

    marcelitoDec. 02, 2012 - 11:07AM JST

    How about recommending turning away from N -power generation to stem radiation exposure instead? That would probably turn out fairly effective.

    Largest source of radiation exposure for Japanese people is actually medical radiation. All the fukushima radiation noted from researchers is in the range of 1000Sv, with average exposure around 1mSv. Medical radiation averages 2mSv per person in Japan each year, so that would be in the range of 300000Sv each and every year. Clearly it would be far more effective to turn away from radiological medicine.

  • 2

    Farmboy

    It is generally reserved for medical accidents...

    Basroll,

    You always have a lot to say about Prussian Blue, it seems. Not to be rude, as you are entitled to your opinion, but between you and the FDA, I'll choose the FDA.

    http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/EmergencyPreparedness/BioterrorismandDrugPreparedness/ucm130337.htm

  • 5

    zichi

    The best answer would be not to have a situation, ie atomic power plants which can create a LEVEL 7 nuclear disaster in the first place.

  • -3

    basroil

    FarmboyDec. 02, 2012 - 01:16PM JST

    You always have a lot to say about Prussian Blue, it seems. Not to be rude, as you are entitled to your opinion, but between you and the FDA, I'll choose the FDA.

    FDA only states if it's safe to use. In fact, your link does NOT contain any use recommendations. The internationally accepted level, and the level currently used in Japan, is 2mSv of contamination after a short dose. It is never recommended for long term use (since it is far more effective to prevent further accumulation than remove it at a faster rate than accumulation).

    In the case of CS137 contamination, it is far more likely you will cross the 2mSv threshold from an accident, like radio-medical equipment failures, than from a contaminated area with prompt evacuation. That has nothing to do with FDA (though they state medical radiology as an important source of CS137), simply statistics.

  • 1

    globalwatcher

    So what else is J-Gov hiding now?

    I am confused as Fukushima Governor Sato is promoting Fukushima rice is safe to eat, no?

  • -1

    bajhista65

    Is JGovt implementing it?

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    "As quickly as possible", eh? Only took 632 days and endless deliberation to THINK about it. Keep in mind we are taking Japan here, so it'll actually be another four or five years and six Prime Ministers before anything takes effect since it's not an unnecessary construction project.

  • 0

    BertieWooster

    The true situation in Fukushima is not being reported in news media in Japan.

    Anyone who thinks of supporting Abe or any party that is pro-nuclear power really needs to see this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-4dJK9sG3o

  • -4

    basroil

    BertieWoosterDec. 02, 2012 - 03:28PM JST

    The true situation in Fukushima is not being reported in news media in Japan.

    Anyone who thinks of supporting Abe or any party that is pro-nuclear power really needs to see this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-4dJK9sG3o

    This video is pure misinformation and downright wrong in many cases. The few parts it is right about are the ones the media has already mentioned. The person speaking has zero credentials, and is just fear mongering.

    If you would like to actually know the consequences of fallout, ask any of the scientists at Los Alamos National Labs that inhaled "lethal" doses of plutonium 60 years ago. The 30 or so men should have died 7 times over from cancer by the late 80s, yet nobody died from cancer and in fact their mortality rate was lower than expected (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3980212). That video should never be used again as "source" materials, as it's completely wrong about everything that is pertinent to the article.

  • 3

    zichi

    @BertieWooster,

    With reference to your linked video, I can't give any support to Helen Caldicott even though I'm against the use of nuclear energy in this country. Whatever little truth there is in her message, its lost in her fear mongering.The same can be said about the other members who follow in her club or path. Following the 3/11 nuclear disaster she stated one million Japanese would die from radiation cancer and tens of thousands of deformed births would happen. She has also predicted that in fact, the whole of the Northern Hemisphere is doomed to die from radiation cancers. Sorry, I don't think her opinions and predictions are worthy.

  • 0

    Dave Louthan

    If there is a nuclear accident and you want to be part of it go right ahead.

  • -1

  • 1

    alladin

    TEPCO should get together with the Japanese beaurocrats and government officials and take these iodine capsules themselves!!!!

    If you ask me, I think Japan should just shut down all of the reactors and stop playing games with people's lives.

  • 5

    zichi

    @bertieWooster,

    with reference to your second link, Arnie Gundersen is in the same club as Helen Caldicott but I would agree with the article that the No4 spent fuel pool remains of concern but the article needs some updating. The internal structure of the reactor buildings is a separate structure to the external walls. TEPCO has removed all the debris from the top floors of the No4 reactor and covered the spent pool with thick steel plates. Video inside the pool showed no damage to the fuel assemblies.

    Previously, TEPCO had reinforced the base of the pool with concrete and steel girders making it stronger than the original build. The spent fuel can't just be removed overnight. TEPCO has to discover a safe method to remove the spent fuel. It will involve building a new structure alongside the No4 building and then installing a special built overhead crane and track system so that the crane can be moved above the pool to extract the fuel. Some of the spent fuel, what was removed the last time from the reactor is still too hot to move.

    If all goes well, TEPCO should be able to start removing the spent fuel by the end of next year or the beginning of 2014. The cooling systems for the spent fuel pool have back up systems in the event of any power failures.

    Also of concern is the No3 reactor which is far more dangerous than the No4 reactor. The radiation inside the No3 building should be falling as time goes on but its actually increasing. Currently, it 4.5 Sieverts per hour. The radiation levels are too high for workers or robots to enter. TEPCO is trying to remove the massive amount of debris with remote control cranes.

    The amount of waste water from cooling the reactors is increasing and still leaking into the reactor basements, and some of it, probably out into the ocean.

  • 3

    BertieWooster

    zichi-san,

    It's very difficult to gather a real picture of the situation when so many viewpoints carefully select which information to present and which to omit. I think it's worth taking a look at various opinions as the Japanese news media has been rather careless on these points.

    I haven't gone into it in the detail that you have, but it does seem to me that nuclear power in a country as earthquake/tsunami ridden as this is not a good idea.

  • -7

    basroil

    BertieWoosterDec. 02, 2012 - 06:58PM JST

    It's very difficult to gather a real picture of the situation when so many viewpoints carefully select which information to present and which to omit.

    Yes, that's why you should check many and believe none entirely. Your links are to known anti-nuclear "environmentalists" who don't actually have any facts, rather just unsubstantiated opinions. Try checking google scholar for relevant articles, those usually present the facts without too much opinion (but often very specific, so you won't see everything from just one article, you'll need dozens).

    I think it's worth taking a look at various opinions as the Japanese news media has been rather careless on these points.

    They occasionally do, but they aren't in the business for activism, they are in it for ratings. If they had actually cared they should have complained 10 years ago when the IAEA revisions came out and Japan decided to ignore them for another 5 years.

  • -1

    Itaru

    Probably I will not follow recommendation.

    Remember that radioactive material get out because 1) all electric supply lost including 4 emergency generator, 2) Mark 1 has very small pressure vessel and can not survive without ventilation, 3) Wet vent (which remove radioactive from vent) could not be used because of loss of power, and 4) Filter was not installed for dry ventilation.

    If reason is clear and workaround is done, as understandable way, I can trust. I am complete cowardice and never forget to drive without seat belt. But probably do not worry about Tacoma bridge collapse again.

  • 3

    zichi

    @BertieWooster

    I would always start with TEPCO's online site which has numerous reports, photo's and video's. They are quite transparent these days. Then ex-skf blog, he does a great job at translating from TEPCO and the Japanese media. There's also ajw-asahi site but needs a subscription for more than 3 reads/month.

  • 3

    Charles M Burns

    A day late and a dollar short.....

  • 3

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Surprise! Surprise ??? Not!!

  • 5

    zichi

    @Itaru,

    yes, but the Diet Commission investigation, in its conclusion, stated the nuclear disaster was man made and could have been avoided. Since then, TEPCO have admitted the same.

  • 2

    JanesBlonde

    This continued lack of real leadership is so depressing.

  • 0

    Curtis Wilson

    Now if only we could get the coal companies to supply gas masks to everyone then we would all be safer.

  • 0

    nedinjapan

    So let me tell you the truth that the Japanese government is covering from the public: the children living near Fukushima power plant and contaminated areas around will have higher rates of cancer, not just thyroid, that will peak at about 40 to 50 years since the accident. It won't be just thyroid, because food and water is and will be contaminated. The talk about thyroid cancer risk should not make people forget the risks in water and food (besides iodine in air).

  • -3

    basroil

    nedinjapanDec. 03, 2012 - 08:24AM JST

    So let me tell you the truth that the Japanese government is covering from the public: the children living near Fukushima power plant and contaminated areas around will have higher rates of cancer, not just thyroid, that will peak at about 40 to 50 years since the accident.

    Thyroid issues from radiation exposure typically peak around 10 years after. In the case of Chernobyl, there were an excess of 1000 cases of thyroid cancer, with less than a dozen resulting in death. Of those it's almost impossible to know how many dere do to under-reporting before the accident. All other types of cancer have been entirely within expected numbers (statistically insignificant in terms of cases per 100000 people)

    It won't be just thyroid, because food and water is and will be contaminated. The talk about thyroid cancer risk should not make people forget the risks in water and food (besides iodine in air).

    Iodine is not a risk outside of the first month. Generally KI tablets are only necessary if there is a very high initial dose possible, and are not meant for long term use. If conditions are severe enough to require tablets, prompt evacuation should be considered a higher priority.

  • 2

    zichi

    The level of radiation in Futaba next to the atomic power plant on the morning after the disasters were 10 millisieverts per hour before any of the explosions happened. The level of radiation was much higher than admitted by the gov't at the time.

  • 1

    zichi

    Since the nuclear disaster, 27,000 people have worked at the atomic power plant but because of rule changes by the gov't and TEPCO, only 197 of them will be entitled to free lifetime cancer scans.

    The many thousands of nuclear gypsies receive no health checks or health care. Tens of thousands of these workers will be needed before the disaster is over many decades from now.

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