Emergency Preparedness and radiological scenarios
The Municipality of Kincardine in Bruce County is home to Bruce Power, currently the world’s largest nuclear power generating facility. Safety and preparedness is core to running a successful nuclear facility. Bruce Power has ensured that there are multiple layers of safety systems in place to protect the public and its workers. Systems to control and cool reactors in the case of natural disaster or other external hazards are in place and include multiple back-up systems. The stations are seismically qualified to national and international standards and are designed to ensure radiological containment. In addition the Municipality of Kincardine, Bruce Power and the Grey Bruce Health Unit have worked together on plans, exercises and other mechanisms to ensure that the impact of any situation is mitigated as much as possible. Part of this process is planning for a variety of “what if” scenarios.
In the unlikely event of a serious incident there is a robust plan for response and monitoring that involves the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) local Municipalities and other agencies at all Government levels. The Public Health role in this scenario would be advising on potential health impacts, and mitigation measures. The most effective mitigation method is to limit exposure, but there are scenarios where Potassium Iodide tablets are a useful measure.
Potassium Iodide is a salt. When consumed in the right quantity at the right time it is absorbed by the thyroid, preventing the thyroid from absorbing harmful levels of radioactive iodine. Absorption of harmful levels of radioactive iodine can increase the risk of thyroid cancer later in life. This means that Potassium iodide can provide useful protection to people who are likely to be exposed to radioactive iodine, especially younger people. Potassium Iodide is not useful to people who are not likely to be exposed to radioactive iodine, or those exposed to other types of radiation. Potassium Iodide should only be taken at the correct dosage, and only when instructed by officials. In Ontario the Chief Medical Officer of Health would give the instruction to take Potassium Iodide.
Potassium Iodide has traditionally been maintained in storage, to be handed out during evacuation in the unlikely event of a radioactive iodine release. Changes to regulations that govern nuclear facilities are leading to a change in these plans. In 2015 residents that live within a 10km radius of Bruce Power will be given a supply of Potassium Iodide. Residents within a 50km radius of Bruce Power will also be given the opportunity of receiving it. This is being done alongside several other safety enhancements and is not due to an increase in risk to the public.
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