- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Maryland will stockpile pills that help residents guard against some of the effects of radiation in the event of a nuclear power plant emergency.
The announcement by state officials Friday made Maryland the second state in the country to solicit a reserve of potassium iodide pills.
On Wednesday, Massachusetts became the first state to submit a request, asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for 660,000 pills two for each resident who lives within 10 miles of nuclear reactors in Plymouth, Ma., Seabrook, N.H., and Vernon, Vt.
Last month, NRC officials said they would provide the pills, which can help prevent thyroid damage, to residents within 10 miles of a reactor.
Maryland will get roughly 160,000 doses of potassium iodide, or two pills for each of the 80,000 residents who live within the fallout zone, said Mike Sharon, chief of emergency response for the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Seventy-five percent of those people live in Calvert, St. Mary's and Dorchester counties and within 10 miles of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant the state's only such facility. The rest live in Harford and Cecil counties, near the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.
Maryland's decision is a change of policy for the state. It, along with most other states, has strictly advocated evacuation and sheltering in response to a nuclear plant emergency but had not stockpiled potassium iodide for residents, partly in fear that people would become reliant on a pill that offers limited protection.
Mr. Sharon acknowledged that Maryland's decision to change its policy was heavily influenced by public reaction to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"Since 9-11, there is heightened concern," he said. "That's what we feel the public would want us to do."
Mr. Sharon said state officials will meet with local authorities to help determine a distribution plan for the pills, which could range from handing them out at a central location to delivering them door-to-door. It is not certain how much it will cost to distribute the pills.
David F. Hale, president of the Calvert County Board of Commissioners, said the county wanted to be involved in the decision and asked to meet with an official of the state Department of the Environment on Tuesday.
"I think the initial reaction is we should distribute the drug to everybody, because it seems like the best solution," he said. "But there are other factors I think that we should consider. The safest thing that people should do if there is an event is to evacuate. I don't want the distribution of a little pill to override an evacuation order."

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