Campaigners stage peaceful protest

ANTI-NUCLEAR campaigners staged a protest last night outside a temporary clinic set up to distribute anti-radiation tablets to people living or working closest to the Sizewell nuclear site.

ANTI-NUCLEAR campaigners staged a protest last night outside a temporary clinic set up to distribute anti-radiation tablets to people living or working closest to the Sizewell nuclear site.

The tablets, for use in an emergency, are being offered to 180 households and the permanent employees of four firms within the 1.5 mile radius emergency planning zone.

Until now emergency plans have entailed the distribution of the tablets in the immediate aftermath of a major release of radioactivity at Sizewell but a review has led to a change in policy.

The change followed research suggesting the effectiveness of the tablets depended on their earlier digestion and, crucially, a decision by Suffolk police earlier this year to no longer take sole responsibility for their distribution.

Those people who did not turn up to last night's session, organised by the Suffolk Coastal NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) and held at the Sizewell Sports and Social Club, have another opportunity to obtain supplies on the evening of September 4.

The zone excludes much of the town of Leiston and nearby villages, including Dunwich where residents are also pressing for supplies of the tablets.

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Last night's protest was organised by the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign which is calling for the emergency zone to be extended and the anti-radiation pills distributed to thousands of other residents throughout East Anglia.

Charles Barnett, the group's chairman, said any radioactive cloud caused by an accident at the nuclear site would not stop at the 1.5mile boundary.

"Contamination from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 spread across thousands of miles. While we welcome the attempt to help people closest to the plant, the emergency zone should be extended considerably," he said.

The tablets handed out last night by three district nurses and a pharmacist can, if taken in the immediate aftermath of an accident, protect the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive iodine.

Placards held by the small group of protestors asked where were the tablets for other dangerous radionuclides, including Strontium 90, Caesium 137 and Carbon 14, which would also be released in any radioactive cloud.

Dr Amanda Jones, director of public health for the Suffolk Coastal PCT, said anyone outside the zone wanting potassium iodate tablets could order them from their local pharmacy. They did not need a doctor's prescription.

"However, they should be aware that an accident affecting an area outside the emergency zone is very unlikely and that, if it did happen, supplies would be made available to them," she said.

Among the local residents who arrived to collect their tablets was Pat Hogan from Gap House, Sizewell, a few hundreds yards from the nuclear site, and who represents occupants of the hamlet on the community liaison committee, operated jointly by the two power stations.

She said she had never believed the police would have been able to reach Sizewell to hand out the tablets in the event of a major accident.

"The only road down here is likely to be choked with traffic trying to get away as soon as it becomes clear an accident has happened. We should have had another access road built when Sizewell B was given the go-ahead," she said.

One local resident who would have liked to have been picking up supplies of the tablets last night was Leiston town councillor Bill Howard. He said he believed everyone in the town should have got the opportunity, not just the small number within the 1.5-mile emergency zone.

Robin Thornton, Sizewell spokesman, said the two nuclear companies, British Energy and British Nuclear Fuels, were picking up the bill for the potassium iodate tablets but the decision to distribute them and over what area, had been made by the local authorities.

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