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Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident: Various issues with iodine distribution and medication orders

Isao Nakajima, PhD, MD, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, MD, MACP


Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, the public could not receive accurate information concerning about the reality of the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant because of communication problems with mobile phone base stations caused by power outages and the inadequate use of communication satellites between local governments. These telecommunications troubles caused not only a delay between the Japanese central government to local governments, but also a failure in conveying the seriousness of the accident to residents. The central government issued evacuation orders, but in some areas, a delay was seen in the time residents took to notice the orders. Some residents were forced to change their evacuation site several times and move to areas with higher radiation exposure. Although iodine preparations needed to be distributed to saturate the thyroid gland and reduce the uptake of iodine-131, a radioactive isotope, many municipalities were unable to secure them. Preparations were distributed on March 15, 2011 when the detectable amount of radioactive isotopes peaked, but only the Naraha and Miharu towns received them. At the time of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident, communication lines had already been interrupted by the major earthquake that struck on March 11, and information systems between local governments were not communicating well. With such a social infrastructure, residential evacuation orders were inadequate, and the delivery of medication was extremely difficult. The experience of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident suggests that the government should have distributed iodine preparations to residents living within a 30-km radius of the plant in advance, so that they could learn about the background and side effects of the drug beforehand. This distribution strategy is similar to that of targeted antivirus prophylaxis (TAP), which is an extralegal policy carried out in situations where face-to-face medical treatment is impossible because of an outbreak during a pandemic.



internal exposure, drug order, System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI)

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