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Delaware prepared for highly unlikely nuclear incident, planner says

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MIDDLETOWN - The reminder of a possible but highly unlikely nuclear emergency looms in the distance in southern New Castle County.

The Salem/Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Stations cooling tower in New Jersey is visible from across the Delaware Bay especially around Delaware City.

If the tower on Artificial Island can’t be seen in the Middletown area, then perhaps the steam rising from it can.

While Technological Hazards Planner Steven Phillips knows of no hazardous Salem/Hope Creek-related incident that’s ever occurred either in the First State.

It the unforeseen does occur, Mr. Phillips of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency said he’s comfortable that the state is prepared to handle it.

“We do have an entire radiological emergency preparedness plan that’s been developed to address anything that might arise from the power plant,” he said.

“Essentially it’s a low probability event for us. It’s a (high priority) to prepare for it, however because it is such a high impact event if it was to occur.

“We work pretty diligently there with our partners at the federal, state and local level to prepare for an incident.”

Twice a year, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency hosts events to provide potassium iodide tablets to those within a 10-mile radius of the power plant. Spokesperson John Petersen said roughly 1,000 doses were distributed to 100 families in April, while the October session involved 10,000 doses issued to about 750 households. The number of pills distributed is based on an age-based formula.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, potassium iodide is a pill or liquid that can be used in radiation emergencies to help prevent radioactive iodine from being absorbed by the thyroid gland.

Potassium iodide should only be taken on the advice of a medical doctor, public health or emergency management official.

Those currently seeking iodide doses can visit Atlantic Apothecary in Smyrna to obtain them at no cost. A proof of residency or work within the 10-mile-zone of Salem is required.

Iodide is for sale for those living outside of the 10-mile-zone at the Apothecary, and it can be purchased on Amazon as well.

The Apothecary is located at 103 S. Dupont Boulevard, Suite 2 in Smyrna. More information is available online at atlanticapothecary.com or by calling 302-653-9355.

The Smyrna area is in close proximity to the 10-mile-zone according to the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.

The Delaware Emergency Management Agency points to the following actions in case of an emergency:

• If a radiation emergency happens in your area, you should get inside immediately.

• No matter where you are, the safest action to take is to: Get inside. Stay inside. Stay tuned.

• Close and lock all windows and doors.

• Go to the basement or the middle of the building. Radioactive material settles on the outside of buildings so the best thing to do is stay as far away from the walls and roof of the building as you can.

• If possible, turn off fans, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring air in from the outside. Close fireplace dampers.

• Bring pets inside.

• Stay tuned for updated instructions from emergency response officials.

A 40-page emergency preparedness plan for Delaware and New Jersey is available online at preparede.org.

In the unlikely event of an incident, spokesperson John Petersen said the Delaware Emergency Management Agency would be pushing out messaging over the radio and television through the EMS system, as well as social media and through emergency alerts.

With a shelter-in-place order, Mr. Petersen said, officials would determine the wind patterns and intensity of release of radiological material to plot the next move.

Then, he said, “We would be able to accurately provide further instructions from the public through those various mechanisms.”

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