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France to distribute iodine tablets near nuclear power stations

media A nuclear power station at Nogent-Sur-Seine, France AFP/François Nascimbeni

France's nuclear safety watchdog is to distribute iodine tablets to people living near the country's 19 nuclear power stations, warning that an accident is possible but not probable. France relies on nuclear power for a large part of its energy needs.

 In the fifth such distribution campaign since they began in 1997, the Nuclear Security Authority (ASN) will make iodine tablets available to 400,000 households and 2,000 establishments, such as schools, businesses and local government offices, in a radius of 10 kilometres of a nuclear power station.They will be distributed through pharmacies or sent to those who fail to collect them.

Potassium iodide is a "simple and efficient" way to protect the thyroid gland against the effects of radioactive iodine, which can lead to cancer, if it is released into the air by a nuclear accident.

The tablets have a life span of seven years and the last distribution campaign was in 2009.

Nearly five years after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, "we know that a nuclear accident is possible in France, even if it is not probable, far from it", ASN joint director-general Alain Delmestre told the AFP news agency.


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