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Iodate tablets for residents
Last updated 11:52, Friday, 06 March 2009
TABLETS to combat the effects of radiation are being issued to people in Barrow ahead of the switch on of the reactor of a nuclear submarine.
The reactor switch on is the first in the town for ten years.
Officials from the Health Protection Agency arrived in Barrow yesterday to start doling out tablets and advice to the 91 businesses located within 550 metres of the Devonshire Dock, where the £1.2bn, first of class submarine, Astute, is due to “go atomic” next month.
The potassium iodate tablets are being issued at the rate of two per person at businesses this week, and at 500 homes in areas, including Barrow Island, Hindpool and Vickerstown. Trained nurses will be handing out the tablets.
Dr John Astbury, of the Health Protection Agency, said the chances of the tablets ever being needed were “about one in a million”.
They had been issued throughout the 1990s without any problems occurring and are standard around nuclear installations like power stations.
In the event of an emergency leaflets issued to homes and businesses tell people to tune in to Radio Cumbria and await instructions such as when to take the tablets.
The tablets fill the thyroid gland with a harmless iodine protecting it from the radioactive and potentially cancer-causing iodine that is released in a nuclear leak.
A letter to homes and businesses from NHS Cumbria says an Off Site Emergency Planning and Preparedness Committee had reviewed how members of the public could best be protected “in the highly unlikely event of a nuclear reactor accident at the shipyard”.
It said: “It is known that potassium iodate tablets can provide protection against long-term effects of radiation and so it has been decided that potassium iodate tablets will be supplied to all households such as yours, which are within 550 metres of the BAE Systems Submarine Solutions Wet Dock Quay.”
A letter from BAE also sent to households says: “Nuclear powered submarines have been constructed and tested at the Barrow shipyard for many years.
“The nuclear power plant and associated systems are all designed, built and operated to the highest standards. As a result, there has never been any form of nuclear accident in a Royal Navy submarine and it is highly unlikely that any such event will occur.”
BAE said there was no increased risks from the new Astute class of submarines.
The tablets are also being issued to businesses and residents within two kilometres of the Ramsden Dock basin where the sub will be berthed prior to leaving Barrow this summer.
l People can get more information at www.cumbriaalert.info, or from the Environmental Health department at Barrow Town Hall 01229 876444 or the county emergency planning office on 01228 815700.