KI – One of Many Tools in Emergency Planning

A nuclear station’s uranium fuel core provides years of energy for residential, business and industrial consumers. Multi-tiered safety systems protect the public from the extremely unlikely chance of an uncontrolled radiation release to the environment.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) provides “outside” oversight of the nuclear industry’s operations. This intense oversight complements a nuclear station’s internal, redundant safety systems and emergency response plans.

States and local emergency response agencies provide for the public’s safety in a wide range of events, including the small chance of a nuclear emergency. Here is where you may have heard the term KI or potassium iodide pills.

Iodine occurs naturally in the soil and is a necessity for normal thyroid function. Potassium and iodine are combined to produce the compound potassium iodide or KI, which is added to table salt in small amounts to guard against iodine deficiencies.

One of the byproducts from a nuclear reaction is radioactive iodine. If released into the environment, it could be absorbed by an individual’s thyroid resulting in illness.

KI pills in sufficient dosage can help protect the thyroid from radioactive iodine. For this reason, states and local agencies provide KI pills to residents living near a nuclear plant (typically within a 10-mile radius).

Should conditions warrant, a state or local agency would notify residents living near a nuclear plant regarding any needed public protective actions, including taking KI pills. While an unlikely scenario, KI should be taken only at the direction of the appropriate state or local emergency response agency.

The NRC provides KI – free of charge – to states that have requested it for their population within the 10-mile emergency planning zone of a nuclear power plant. For more information from the NRC on KI usage, visit the NRC website.

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