The city of Aachen issued iodine tablets to its 150,000 residents and the surrounding population due to fears of nuclear leaks from Belgium’s Tihange nuclear power plant, the BBC reports.
The city issues coupons exchangeable for pills that reduce the threat of thyroid cancer after a release of radiation. The pills are issued for individuals aged 3 to 46 in a different dosage. Over 500,000 people have been advised to stock the pills, suggesting the population must have them at their disposal in case of an emergency.
The highly unusual issuance of pills has been authorized by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, although it is not linked to a specific case of leakage that has been publicized. Such pills are centrally stocked and issued in cases of emergency.
Belgium’s Tihange 2 and Doel 3 ageing nuclear reactors have been shut down repeatedly for security reasons, including water leaks and micro-cracks in some reactor units. They are scheduled to close in 2023 and 2025 respectively. Belgium’s federal nuclear agency (AFCN) has repeatedly offered assurances that radiation can’t leak out.
In February 2016, Aachen sued the Belgian Electrabel company that owns the 40-year old Tihange plant. In April, the German government urged Belgium to bring forward the decommissioning of the reactors, although Belgium covers 50% of its electricity needs from nuclear energy and is not ready to replace the 6,000-megawatt capacity of the dangerous plants.