In Brief

Belgium distributing millions of iodine pills in case of nuclear accident

Country's ageing nuclear plants have experienced a range of problems in recent years

Belgium has begun giving its 11 million citizens free access to iodine pills in the event of an accident at its ageing nuclear plants, while maintaining that there is no “specific risk”, The Guardian reports.

In the event of a nuclear disaster, iodine pills help reduce radiation build-up in the thyroid gland - the part of the body most sensitive to radiation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Belgium’s seven “creaking” nuclear reactors have sparked concern after several problems “ranging from leaks to cracks” and an “unsolved sabotage incident”.

In previous years, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany have expressed their own worries with Belgium’s nuclear plants, adds the Guardian. The Dutch government ordered millions of iodine pills for its own citizens residing near the Belgian border.

The Belgian government has also launched a website available in the country’s official languages of French, Flemish and German to tell people what to do in an nuclear emergency.

However, interior minister Jan Jambon said these plans were preventative: “For now there is no specific risk with our nuclear plants.”

Benoit Ramacker, spokesman for the national crisis centre, said Belgium launched a series of nuclear accident emergency measures in 1991. Those measures have only been updated once since then, in 2003.

“Citizens must also prepare to help themselves the day something happens”, said Ramacker.

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