Windscale, Sellafield, Moorside UK fallout plume estimate
Calls for distribution of iodine tablets for the UK – this would especially give some protection to children against the known impacts on the thyroid from the release of radioactive iodine to the environment (there are no tablets to protect from other radioactive isotopes such as plutonium, stontium, cesium …)

May 25, 2016

NFLA publish independent analysis of scientific advice in nuclear related emergency incidents and call for national issuing of stable iodine tablets

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) publishes today an independent submission by radiation risks expert Dr Ian Fairlie (1) on the role of science and scientific advice in emergency incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) materials. (2)

The submission was made by Dr Fairlie to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and has the full support of the NFLA, who assisted with some background information to the submission.

The Committee is holding an inquiry into the use of scientific information in CBRN incidents. Dr Fairlie’s response focuses on emergency planning and the issue of releasing potassium iodine tablets to the public to provide vital support in the event of an incident which involves a release of radiation.

In the event of a nuclear accident or incident, the three main responses are shelter, evacuation, and iodine prophylaxis. Dr Fairlie’s submission considers the use of iodine tablets following an emergency.

The prior ingestion of stable iodine is an effective means of protecting the thyroid gland from thyroid cancer and other thyroid effects, especially among children. It is necessary to consume stable iodine immediately after a nuclear incident: the best way to provide this is the advance distribution of stable iodine prior to any accident or incident.

Dr Fairlie’s submission makes the following conclusions:

To ensure preparedness, quicker responses and better public protection, practical steps need to be implemented before any nuclear accident or incident occurs. In particular, the pre-distribution of potassium iodide or iodate tablets is an effective way of protecting the thyroid gland, and tablets needs to be swallowed immediately after a known nuclear incident/accident. Unfortunately, information on the whereabouts of such tablets, their stocks and their planned distribution is withheld by UK authorities.
Several other countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Switzerland, have already pre-distributed potassium iodide tablets apparently without difficulty. It is therefore recommended that stable iodine, along with precise dose instructions and the reasons for pre-distribution, should now be distributed to all families within at least 30 km of UK nuclear reactors.
Where it is anticipated that plumes from nuclear incidents and accidents could reach large urban populations (e.g. >500,000 people) located beyond 30 km, then pre-distribution should cover all these areas as well, as quick evacuations from such cities would not be feasible and their inhabitants would still need to be afforded some protection.

For this reason, and because of the possibility of reactor accidents/incidents abroad, or malicious terrorist attacks using radioactive materials in the UK, it is also recommended that urgent consideration be given to advance distribution of potassium iodide tablets to all households throughout the UK, as occurs in other countries.

Report author Dr Ian Fairlie said:

Strong scientific evidence points towards the need for iodide tablets to be distributed right now without waiting for a nuclear accident or incident to happen. The accidents at both Chernobyl and Fukushima have also taught us that pre-distribution of potassium iodide tablets are vitally necessary.”

NFLA Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:

NFLA has been concerned for many years that potassium iodide tablets should be made more readily available to the British public in the event of not just a nuclear incident or accident at a nuclear power station but also in the event of a malicious incident by terrorist groups in a UK town or city. I welcome Dr Fairlie’s cogent analysis that confirms our view that all UK households should receive tablets that would directly help them in the event of a radiation release. Belgium and the Netherlands have decided on this course of action as a result of the recent tragic terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris. It is now time for the UK to follow this same course of action.”

This is the first of two reports on responding to nuclear risks being issued by the NFLA in May. The second focuses on nuclear security matters and will be issued imminently.



(1) Dr Ian Fairlie is an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment. He has a degree in radiation biology from Bart’s Hospital in London and a doctorate studied at Imperial College and Princeton University on the radiological hazards of nuclear fuel reprocessing. Dr Fairlie has worked as a civil servant on the regulation of radiation risks from nuclear power stations. From 2000 to 2004, he was head of the Secretariat of the UK Government’s CERRIE (Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters) Committee on internal radiation risks. In recent years he has been a consultant on radiation matters to the European Parliament, local and regional governments (including the NFLA), environmental NGOs, and private individuals. Dr Fairlie’s specific areas of interest are the radiation doses and risks arising from the radioactive releases at nuclear facilities. For more information see

(2) The report is attached with this briefing. It can be downloaded from the NFLA website

(3) German Government public information brochure on potassium iodide tablets


  1. In the medium to long term they also don’t protect against Iodine 129 with a half life of 15.7 million years, which causes thyroid cancer too. I suspect that the reason it’s potassium iodide is that the potassium helps protect against cesium uptake, but only in the short time-span that it is taken. And, if you are warned before the fallout comes. What is a big problem is that you can’t take very much in the way of potassium supplements except under medical supervision because too much is dangerous, as is too little. From my understanding you can put potassium out for the plants if you grow your own food so that they will pull potassium up instead of cesium. It’s important to eat well because many radionuclides are mimics so that if you are iodine deficient you pick up radioactive iodine more quickly, if you are iron deficient you probably pick up plutonium more quickly, calcium deficient more strontium, etc. But what to do for radioactive carbon? Radioactive tritiated water, etc.? Unless something is done quickly the future looks very bleak. If the world doesn’t change course quickly I think that in the not to distant future that the average age of death will drop to around 20. Anyone born will have to be to parents of around 15 to 18 years of age, and even then there will be increasing fertility and much more childhood cancer. The frightening thing is that radionuclides cause clustered DNA damage which is uniquely difficult to impossible to repair and seems to be unique to ionizing radiation. I guess that there is hope but if and only if the immune system catches defects in time and destroys them. Mousseau and others have started focusing on ROS (reactive oxidative species) but this is intentionally or unintentionally misleading. Radiation does uniquely hard to repair clustered damage AND easier to repair ROS damage. LANL nuclear lab and radiologists say so. This is the basis for using radiation to destroy cancer cells.

    1. Whoops I mean increasing infertility. Already people in their 20s sometimes need fertility treatments whereas people easily had children into their 40s prior to the nuclear age.


  3. Pingback: Dr Ian Fairlie calls for UK pre-distribution of stable Iodine – kick nuclear

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