Got Your Pills?

Alexander Belyakov

Anti-radiation pills?

The Ukrainian-Canadian newspaper “New Pathway” published the article “Got your pills?” by Alexander Belyakov. The City of Toronto, the Region of Durham and Ontario Power Generation are mailing KI pills to homes and businesses within the 10 km zones. They are also supplying KI pills on request to all residents living within 50 km of the Pickering Nuclear Plant now.

What have we learned after all from the Fukushima and Chornobyl disasters? How to prevent such tragedies from recurring? There still seems to be little agreement on what these lessons should be for the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Power Stations. Are there high chances of nuclear accidents? The 30th Anniversary of Chornobyl and 5th Anniversary of Fukushima, which are commemorated in 2016, will attract public attention and provide good opportunities for discussing best international practices for emergency response.

In Toronto, eleven city councillors requested that the City Manager, in consultation with the Medical Officer of Health and the Office of Emergency Management, report back to the Executive Committee by March 2016 on:
1. The status of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station licence renewal and any issues relating to emergency response discussed during the renewal process.
2. Toronto’s emergency response protocols for nuclear risks and international best practices for both Darlington and Pickering Nuclear Generating Stations.
3. The appropriateness of the current 10 km primary response zone for distribution of Potassium Iodide (KI) pills and whether it should be expanded given the 50 km evacuation zones of other jurisdictions.

The city councillors explain: “While it is highly unlikely that there will be a serious nuclear accident, we, unfortunately, know it can and has happened and that we need to be prepared to respond.” The Executive Committee of Toronto City Council, chaired by Mayor John Tory, adopted a motion on Toronto’s nuclear emergency response and considered these recommendations on December 1.

There are many things that could be done to prepare for a nuclear accident (including the KI pills distribution). Suhail Barot, the University of Toronto instructor, stated in his letter to Toronto City Council: “Public awareness in this regard is extremely low. And in the event of an emergency, it is unreasonable to expect millions of Torontonians to go to their local pharmacies to obtain KI pills within the 2-hour window it needs to be taken for maximum efficacy (or for the pharmacies to be able to meet this demand).”

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