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Belgium To Distribute Iodine Pills To Entire Population In Case of Nuclear Disaster

May 02, 2016 02:19 PM EDT

Belgium will start distributing iodine pills to all of its citizens in case of a possible nuclear disaster.

Iodine pills have been used in the past to help reduce the effect of the radiation to the body, particularly radiation build-up in the thyroid.

While there are no current nuclear disasters, the recent events involving nuclear power plants -- such as the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan -- have prompted the country to revise and improve its nuclear emergency plan.

The Belgian government at present is already giving out iodine pills for emergency use to people living within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of the country's nuclear reactors. However, the government recently decided to change its rules and increase the range of the possible affected areas around its reactors to 100 kms (62 mi).

Belgium currently has seven reactors at Tihange and Doel, plus a research reactor at Mol, as reported by the BBC. These reactors provide more than half of the electricity supply in the European nation.

In the same report, Health Minister Maggie De Block said increasing the range to 100-kilometers essentially covers the entire population of Belgium.

Earlier in April, Belgium turned down Germany's request to shut down all of its reactors.

In 2012, two reactors were closed down after cracks and defects have been discovered in its pressure walls, as reported by the BBC. Germany has since then asked Belgium to terminate its ageing nuclear reactors. But Belgian officials turned them down, saying that everything is safe from a nuclear point of view.

Still, iodine pills -- which are aimed to be distributed next year -- can only do so much when a nuclear emergency does happen. Past disasters involving nuclear energy, such as the disasters at Fukushima Three Mile Island and (perhaps the most well-known) Chernobyl, have already proven that radiation can have immense adverse effects. Not only can it lead to different kinds of health problems such as high risks for cancer and leukemia, but it can also contaminate lands and bodies of water, effectively wiping out ecosystems in the affected areas.

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