Last week, the Dutch government announced it was going to hand out 15 million iodine pills to protect people living near worrisome ageing Belgian and German nuclear reactors. The seven Belgian reactors in Doel and Tihange were built in the late 1960s to late 1970s, with closures planned for 2022 to 2025, while Germany’s Emsland plant, built in 1982, is scheduled to shut down in 2022. As a contrast, the Netherlands only has one operational nuclear power plant in Borssele, Zeeland, built in 1974, with no plans to close, except rumours of ‘possibly before 2033’.
First Belgium announced its plan to distribute iodine pills to its population of 11 million people in 2017 in case of a nuclear accident after which Dutch health minister Edith Schippers announced that her government would distribute its share of pills to the Dutch. Once tablets are distributed to children and pregnant women, the rest of the 15 million could be made available to everyone caught up in a potential accident, including tourists, visitors and workers, Schippers explained. Iodine pills help reduce radiation build-up in the thyroid, and tablets are available to everyone aged 40 and under within 20 kilometres of a plant.
“Belgium’s creaking nuclear plants have been causing safety concerns for some time after a series of problems ranging from leaks to cracks and an unsolved sabotage incident.” And if that wasn’t enough cause for concern, investigators last year found surveillance footage of a Belgian nuclear official in the apartment of a suspect linked to the Brussels and Paris attacks.