Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Army Is Stocking Up On A Ton Of Anti-Radiation Pills To Protect Troops

Military and Defense

While checking out the Federal Business Opportunities network, we came across a listing by the Defense Logistics Agency— the Troop Support branch — seeking a supply of potassium iodide tablets.

Scrolling through the online solicitation, you'll see the U.S. Army Medical Material Agency wants to ensure "critical operational forces are protected in the event of nuclear fallout."

The FDA recommends taking potassium iodide in radiation emergencies to block cancer-causing radioiodines that would otherwise be absorbed by the body's thyroid — the gland in your neck that regulates adrenaline and metabolism, along with doing a bunch of other stuff we need to survive.

The U.S. has bought potassium iodide tablets in the past, and is now looking ahead to scenarios, possibly spurred by last year's Fukushima crisis.

As the federal solicitation is quick to point out, "The recent earthquake in Japan in March of 2011 and the resultant nuclear crisis has renewed interest in this item."

The pills are also used in case of terrorist-related release of radioactivity from nuclear weapons or dirty-bombs, says Anbex Inc., the only FDA-approved manufacturer of the pills.

Of course, potassium iodide would also come in handy if there were to be an airstrike against a target laden will nuclear material, say, like the sites in Iran. One of the big concerns surrounding the practical devastation of those nuclear facilities is the radiation it will unleash into the surroundings.

Destroying one of the most likely Iranian targets, the 1000-megawatt Bushehr nuclear plant, would create just such a concern.

The 1,000-megawatt reactor is what was in place at Chernobyl at the time of its meltdown, and though there were four in the Ukraine, the radiation exposure from blowing up even a single reactor would be immense.

But how immense, no one is really quite sure.

When Israel destroyed Iraq's Osiris 70-megawatt nuclear reactor in a bold 1981 attack, the plant hadn't yet been stocked with nuclear fuel so there was no risk of radiation.

But an attack on Iran's Bushehr plant, which has been stocked with radioactive fuel rods since 2010, would be an incalculable mess.

While the potassium iodide tablets wanted by the Army don't necessarily mean a thing, they'll sure be nice to have if an attack against Iran eventually goes down.

And until that actually happens, the only clue we'll have about what the Pentagon may be planning is in small inconclusive supply requests like this.

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