Northern Norway municipality distributing iodine against possible nuclear disaster in neighboring Russia

Publish date: February 25, 2009

The public health service in Sør-Varanger, a Norwegian municipality bordering Russia, started distributing iodine pills to people under 18 as a preventive health measure should a nuclear disaster occur on Russia’s Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s nuclear northern fleet and a nuclear power plant, the Barents Oberver reported.

Though health officials in Sør-Varanger were quick to point out that its citizens were in no immediate risk of radiation exposure from the Kola Peninsula facilities, it is nevertheless a sing of low confidence that Russia has secured its military and civilian nuclear installations.

Last year, a group of governors and mayors in northern Norwegian municipalities near the Russian border wrote a letter to the Russian government asking it to close down the ageing Kola Nuclear Power Plant. Instead, the plant received permission to extend the engineered life span on some of its oldest and most vulnerable reactors.

Iodine is seen as a prophylactic against cancer from radiation exposure for children and adolescents, but does not carry the same preventative effect for adults, Sør-Varanger’s chief physician Tor Seierstad told the newspaper Finnmarken, but added that, “it is safe to live in Sør-Varanger”

‘We do not expect a nuclear disaster to happen, but one should keep in mind that something might go wrong and have a plan ready,” Seierstad told the newspaper.

Sør-Varanger’s public health service will begin distribution of iodine pills to children and young adults 18 or under on March 1st, the Barents Observer reported, a decision that was taken in conjunction with the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority.
 Sør-Varanger is in close proximity across the Norwegian border from the Kola nuclear power plant, the Andreyeva Bay naval nuclear waste dumping ground, and nuclear submarines in the northern nuclear fleet that are awaiting decommissioning.

Research after the Chernobyl accident in 1986 has shown that children can benefit from taking iodine pills as a preventive measure if a nuclear accident occurs. But iodine does not produce the same effects for adults, the Barents Observer said.