Throughout many years, we have seen how nuclear reactors can go from being our best friends that create energy, to being our main enemy that can make the most livable cities look like something out of the Walking Dead. This is the reason why there has been growing opposition towards the world’s last remaining nuclear reactions, 449 to be exact. On top of this, 15 more are being constructed as we speak. The Netherlands has three working nuclear reactions and a recent legislation changed made sure more people in the population would receive iodine pills in case there is ever a nuclear disaster.

The Netherlands and its nuclear reactors

The Netherlands is a rather small country when you compare it to other European countries. Only having three nuclear reactors doesn’t seem a lot. However, the Netherlands is the 66th most populated country in the world with over 17 million people. Having so many people in such a small area could increase the possible damage from a nuclear reactor leak or accident. What has to be stated is that these three nuclear reactors each have different tasks. One at Borssele (in the South) generates electricity, one in Petten (in the North) which produces medical isotopes and is used for research, and one in Delft which is only used for educational purposes by some lucky students. In this case, the toxic debate about nuclear reactors (pun intended) doesn’t work that much because it is doing more good than bad for the population of the Netherlands. Nonetheless, accidents can happen but the Netherlands has already found a way to prepare if disaster ever hits.

Borssele Nuclear Reactor
Borssele Nuclear Reactor

Iodine Pills

Iodine happens to be an extremely important chemical element that our bodies need but cannot make. The thyroids in our bodies need iodine to be able to produce hormones. These hormones are also important for our bodies. If the thyroids don’t receive enough iodine from our diet to do the job, it will start to work harder than it is supposed to. Having your thyroids work too much can cause an enlarged thyroid gland, which can be seen from having a swollen neck. Having an enlarged thyroid gland is only one of the many unhealthy side effects of having your thyroids work too much. Too much time would be spent listing them down so click here if you want to know more.

Where do we get our important iodine dose from?

The chemical element comes from our diet. However, don’t start eating only food that contains iodine, because your thyroid could become saturated. Moderation is key. You can find iodine in fish, seaweed, and eggs. Iodine is also added to kitchen salt and baking salt. Thus, this means that you should eat these products or use them in your meal to keep your thyroid happy. Don’t start eating only food that contains iodine because this could in the end also cause the same problem as having an iodine deficiency. People who have an iodine deficiency take special medication for that.

Radioactive Iodine

Whenever there is a nuclear disaster, radioactive chemicals will end up in the air for every living thing in the area to breathe in. One of those chemicals is radioactive iodine. What is the difference between normal iodine and radioactive iodine? Radioactive iodine can cause disastrous effects to your thyroids instead of keeping it healthy. After breathing in radioactive iodine from a nuclear disaster, this will end up in your blood which your thyroids will later receive. Having this bad chemical in your thyroids can cause thyroid cancer. The effects will not be instantaneous, it can take years before you get sick from this radioactive chemical.

Iodine Pills and Nuclear Disasters

You would ask yourself why take more iodine in a nuclear disaster if your body is already taking enough of the radioactive iodine. As mentioned before, if your body is taking in a high dose of iodine, your thyroids will become saturated. If they become saturated, then there will be no space for the radioactive iodine and therefore, this will be rejected. This is the main reason why governments around the world, including the Netherlands, have been giving iodine pills to parts of their population that live in close proximity to one of the three nuclear reactors.

Iodine Pills
Iodine pills given by the Dutch government

Ok, now you have the iodine pills and you know what they are for. The next step is to know how and when to take them. They are only intended to be used after a nuclear disaster, before the 12-hour mark after a disaster to be exact. The pills will still have an effect after 12 hours but the risk will be bigger. How to take them depends on what kind of pill the government gave you. Some pills it is best to dissolve them in water, in other pills you can break them into small pieces and put it on your meal before you eat. It is always best to read the instructions on the package before taking them and always wait for the government to say if you should take the iodine pill or not. To all the Dutchies out there, go check your mail.