France to give millions of residents iodine pills while EDF spots problems in six nuclear reactors

France will soon start distributing radioactivity-blocking iodine pills to an additional 2.2 million people living near the country's 19 nuclear power plants. Separately on Wednesday EDF acknowledged manufacturing problems in six reactors while one in Normandy was shut down due to signs of corrosion.

France to give millions of residents iodine pills while EDF spots problems in six nuclear reactors
Greenpeace stages anti-nuclear power protest at Fessenheim power plant. Photo: AFP

The ASN nuclear safety authority had announced in June an extension of the safety radius to 20 kilometres (12 miles) of each plant, up from 10 kilometres set in 2016, when some 375,000 households were prescribed the pills.

The watchdog said Tuesday that affected residents will receive a letter in the coming days with a voucher to collect stable iodine tablets from pharmacies, as well as information on what to do in case of a nuclear accident.

“If radioactive iodine is released into the environment, taking stable iodine is one of the most effective ways of protecting the thyroid,” the ASN said in a statement.

The thyroid, which produces hormones regulating the body's metabolism, is particularly at risk from cancer caused by exposure to radioactive iodine released in nuclear accidents.

On the same day, but not linked to the distribution of the Iodine pills, Energy giant EDF announced that it recognized manufacturing problems on six active nuclear reactors in France, but they were still deemed “fit for use”.

“At this stage of the technical instruction on these components, EDF considers that the discrepancies noted do not call into question the service suitability of the equipment and do not require immediate treatment”, read the EDF statement.

The reactors were in the power stations Blayais, Bugey, Fessenheim, Dampierre-en-Burly and Paluel (see map below).

Also on Wednesday a nuclear reactor at the Flamanville palnt in Normandy had to be shut down due to traces of corrosion having been spotted on back-up systems.


France gets the bulk of its electricity from nuclear generators. It is the world's most nuclear-dependent country, though it has pledged to cut its reliance on nuclear power, largely by shutting down its oldest reactors.

In 2014, flooding at its oldest plant, in Fessenheim near the German and Swiss borders, forced an emergency reactor shutdown. Anti-nuclear activists have long called for the shuttering of Fessenheim, which has been in operation since 1977.

The first new-generation nuclear power plant in the country's north, originally set to go online in 2012, has been hit by huge cost overruns and manufacturing problems, and is not expected to be ready until 2022.

Also targeted in the expanded campaign will be schools, businesses and shops within the enlarged radius, the ASN said.

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