French pharmacists report requests for iodine tablets over nuclear war fears

French pharmacists have reported an increasing number of people requesting iodine tablets, apparently over fears of a nuclear war following Russian's invasion of Ukraine.

French pharmacists report requests for iodine tablets over nuclear war fears
Pharmacists have reported an increase in people trying to obtain iodine tablets. Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP

Pharmacies in France that are within 20km of a nuclear site are licensed to carry stocks of potassium iodide tablets, also known as stable iodine, which in the event of a nuclear accident can be taken to help protect the thyroid gland from radiation in the air.

The pharmacists’ union has reported an increase in people requesting the medication in recent days, apparently over concern that the war in Ukraine could escalate into a nuclear war.

“Until now, there was no demand. Now, in three days, we have had about 10 people worried about a nuclear accident and asking for iodine,” Alain Boetsch, a pharmacist based in Strasbourg and president of the local pharmacists’ union, told Le Parisien.

“Some people think that Putin would be able to launch something over Ukraine and that the Rhine would not stop the cloud, contrary to what many people thought at the time of Chernobyl.”

The USPO pharmacy union agreed that: “Some people are worried, in this context of war with the possible launch of a nuclear strike or a missile that falls near Chernobyl,” but added that the requests were “far from a tidal wave”.

The union added that a distribution of tablets had last taken place in 2021 and in the event of them being required, there would be plenty to go around.

The tablets cannot be taken as a preventative measure, a spokesman added.

“They must be administered in an accident situation and only on the instructions of the authorities, at the earliest one hour before exposure to radioactivity, and at the latest within 6 to 12 hours afterwards,” reads the website of the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).

FranceĀ  is heavily dependent on nuclear power for its energy needs and has 18 nuclear power plants with 56 operational reactors, with plans for more. Anyone who lives within 20km of one of these plants is able to request iodine tablets at their local pharmacy on production of ID and proof of address.

READ ALSO Why is France so obsessed with nuclear power?

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France ‘strongly condemns’ Russia’s expulsion of its diplomats

France "strongly condemns" the expulsion of 34 of its diplomats by Russia, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, a tit-for-tat move by Moscow after Paris ordered some Russian staff to leave.

France 'strongly condemns' Russia's expulsion of its diplomats

Saying the step had “no legitimate basis”, the ministry said in a statementthat “the work of the diplomats and staff at (France’s) embassy in Russia… takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations” — whereas Paris expelled the Russian staff in April on suspicion of being spies.

Moscow said Wednesday it was expelling 34 “employees of French diplomatic missions” in a tit-for-tat move following the
expulsion of Russian diplomats from France as part of joint European action over Russia’s campaign in Ukraine.

“Thirty four employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared persona non grata,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that they have two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow made the announcement after summoning France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, and telling him that the expulsion of 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions was a “provocative and unfounded decision”, the statement

“It has been stressed that this step causes serious damage to Russian-French relations and constructive bilateral cooperation,” the foreign ministry said.

French President Emmanuel Macron initially led diplomatic outreach to the Kremlin over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine but his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin have eventually tapered off and overt French military
support to Ukraine has increased in recent months.