Nuclear scare prompts thousands of orders for potassium iodide pills

Christy SomosChristy Somos Writer  @C_Somos Contact

A website dedicated to nuclear safety reported more than 30,000 orders placed online for potassium iodide, or KI, pills after a mistaken emergency alert about a nearby power plant occurred on the weekend.

After the emergency alert was sent about Pickering Nuclear Generating Station around 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, the nuclear safety website “Prepare to be Safe,” which is jointly managed by the Region of Durham, the City of Toronto and Ontario Power Generation, was inundated with online orders for KI pills that protect the body from radioactive elements.

“Between January 12 and 13, there have been 32,388 orders placed for potassium iodide (KI) pills through the Prepare to be Safe website,” OPG Media Director Neal Kelly said in an email to “Typically there are between 100-200 orders per month.”

KI pills can be used to “protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine that may be released into the air in the unlikely event of a radiological emergency,” the Prepare to be Safe website states.

In an emailed statement to Monday, Senior Communications Advisor for the City of Toronto Alex Burke said that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, “requires that all homes and businesses within 10 km of a nuclear power station receive a supply of potassium iodide (KI) pills. Toronto residents within 10 km of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station (residents living east of Morningside Road) receive KI pills automatically in the mail free of charge. Residents outside the 10-km zone but within 50 km of the station are also eligible for free KI pills that can be ordered online.”

Burke added that the 311 hotline received “approximately 50 calls” following the warning, with a small number of calls requesting more information on KI pills.

Residents within the range of the plant who have misplaced their pills may use the Prepare to be Safe website to order replacements.

The nuclear power plant warning was quickly deemed a false alert and is now under investigation.

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