Russian shelling of nuclear power plant increases radioactive threat in Ukraine – POLITICO

After Russia shelled Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant – the largest in Europe – early Friday morning, the threat of radiation sickness to citizens is a real and present danger.

“We survived the night that could stop the history of Ukraine and Europe,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a 10am written update, adding that an attack on the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant “could be as devastating as six Chernobyls.” “.

Given the horrors of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant fire in 1986 and the years of hardship still vivid in many’s memories, it didn’t take long for public health advice to arrive.

A video on the independent news site Nexta ran at 2:32 a.m. Ukrainian time, explaining when to take iodine tablets to protect against radiation exposure.

“You must take iodine within the first few minutes after a nuclear alert is triggered,” said one man who gave the advice.

Pharmacies have already seen a rush for iodine tablets across the EU, with countries from Finland to Bulgaria experiencing supply shortages, according to reports Reuters, after Russian President Vladimir Putin put his nuclear forces on high alert. Pharmacies in Belgium, which give out the pills for free, have also seen a rush for pills, they reported VRT.

In Ukraine itself, the country has asked the EU for help with almost all medical supplies; “Basically … almost everything we can offer,” said Pierre Delsaux, director-general of the European Public Health Emergencies Agency earlier this week.

Iodine tablets should be kept safe and not ingested unless there is a radioactive emergency. devices Norway’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Agency. Children and young people under the age of 18, pregnant and breastfeeding women are most at risk and should have appropriate supplies ready.

In the event of a nuclear accident, radioactive iodine can become airborne. Everything that is inhaled or ingested is absorbed by the thyroid, leading to thyroid cancer. Iodine tablets can block this absorption and reduce the risk of cancer, the agency explains.

These radioactive particles can travel with the wind, so public health advice in the event of a nuclear emergency in Ukraine could depend on the weather, according to the Nuclear Safety Agency called.

However, iodine tablets only protect against radioactive iodine and not against other radioactive substances. In the event of a nuclear emergency, staying indoors for up to two days is recommended.

No such advice has currently been given. And even if there is a radiation leak, the Zaporizhzhia facility is far more resilient than Chernobyl, said Mark Wenman, lecturer in nuclear materials at Nuclear Energy Futures, Imperial College London.

The essential reactor components are “housed in a heavily steel-reinforced concrete shelter that can withstand extreme external events, both natural and man-made, such as a plane crash or explosions,” he said.

Three of the reactors are shut down, two are being held at low power while one is running at around 60 percent, reported the International Atomic Energy Agency. And no radioactive material was released after the shelling and fire, the IAEA said.

But with no sign of abating from Putin’s offensive, the nuclear threat lingers — on more than one front.

“Although a missile attack on a nuclear power plant could lead to a serious radioactive incident, it is not as dangerous as a nuclear weapon explosion, which would have far more serious effects in terms of explosive power, fire, radiation and radioactive fallout” wrote Patricia Lewis, director of the international security program at the Chatham House think tank.

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