Germany has ordered 190 million iodine tablets to prepare for a serious reactor accident. According to WDR research, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) has ordered the tablets from a manufacturer in Austria. This is almost four times the current stock. The tablets should be distributed to the population in case of release of radioactive substances.
Background is a recommendation of the Radiation Protection Commission (SSK). After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Federal Government's advisory body had proposed significantly expanding the circle of potential recipients of iodine tablets for the release of radioactivity. In addition, the respective emergency zones around the nuclear power plants were considerably enlarged. Since then, the entire Federal Republic of Germany has been considered a "remote zone". In this all children and adolescents under 18 years, and pregnant women with iodine tablets must be provided.
The intake of high doses of iodine is intended to prevent the body from absorbing radioactive iodine that may be released in reactor accidents. Iodine is absorbed into various organs of the body after ingestion through the air or food, especially to the thyroid gland, which uses it to produce hormones. The rationale of iodine in a reactor accident is to provide the body with so much harmless iodine that it stops absorbing the radioactive iodine from the environment and storing it in the thyroid gland. So should be prevented especially in adolescents and children thyroid cancer. On the other hand, iodine tablets do not help against other radioactive substances such as cesium, a fission product of uranium that emits significantly long-lasting radioactive radiation as radioactive iodine.
Aachen provided its inhabitants already two years ago
"Fukushima taught us two things at the time: One is that you also have to reckon with reactor accidents of the INES 7 level, which is harder than previously assumed," explained the Essen radiobiologist and former SSK chairman Prof. Wolfgang Müller, in the WDR. "And second, that there may well be multi-day releases, which means that under certain circumstances the wind direction changes and many more areas are affected than would be the case after a one-day release."
Despite the decision to phase out nuclear power in 2022, according to Müller, the risk of a meltdown is real - especially because of the numerous nuclear power plants close to the border. Two years ago, the Aachen region had issued iodine tablets to all residents under the age of 45, because of the risks of the neighboring Belgian nuclear plant Tihange.
According to the BfS, the costs for the nationwide increase are 8.4 million euros and are borne by the federal government. The tablets are stored decentrally. The federal states are responsible for distribution and storage.