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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Iodine tablets issued after terror threat
Sellafield plant
Irish health officials fear an attack on Sellafield
A possible terrorist attack on Cumbria's Sellafield nuclear plant has prompted health officials to issue every home in Ireland with iodine tablets.

The move is part of the Irish government's response to last year's terror attacks on the United States.

Concerns have been raised that terrorists might fly hijacked planes into the Sellafield's reprocessing complex - just across the Irish Sea.

Now every home in Ireland is being given free iodine tablets in the event the country is hit by nuclear fallout.

The Sellafield plant
Some fear the plant may be hit from the air

A review of Ireland's national emergency plan - which was supposed to deal with such contingencies - revealed deep flaws.

People were advised to take an iodine tablet if the country was hit by nuclear fallout, but most Irish homes do not have the tablets.

They work by topping up the thyroid gland with iodine, which blocks the absorption of radioactive iodine.

It also emerged that local health boards had dumped tablets sent to them in 1991 because they were past their "use by" date.

New stocks

Three health boards had no tablets at all and much of the stock in other areas had not been checked.

A review has recommended new stocks of tablets be purchased urgently and distributed to all homes.

The first consignments will go to homes in the capital and on the east coast.

A spokesman for the country's postal service said: "People will start to receive them soon and the whole operation should be completed in about 10 days."

A spokeswoman for the Irish government said it still wanted Sellafield closed down.

She said: "Our litigation against the UK authorities concerning the health threat to Ireland is continuing.

"Although we have a new government in place, our stance has not changed."


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07 Mar 02 | England
17 Dec 01 | N Ireland
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