Fears of widespread radiation exposure in Japan have sparked a political debate about the future of nuclear energy production in the United States.
Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who sits on the House committee overseeing nuclear power, has called for a moratorium on any new construction of nuclear reactors in the U.S. In addition, he sent a letter to President Barack Obama's science advisor, John Holdren, requesting the enactment of a 2002 law expanding the distribution of potassium iodine pills, which may protect individuals from thyroid cancer after radiation exposure, by 10 miles.
According to FOX News, Markey believes the pills should be distributed to people who live within a 20-mile radius of the nation's 104 nuclear power plants. The bill, which he authored, was approved by Congress in 2002, but the law included a provision that allowed the White House to reject the requirement if there was a better way to prevent cancer.
In 2008, the George W. Bush administration waived the requirement, claiming that evacuation and protection from contaminated food are more effective measures than pill distribution, according to the media outlet .
The New York Times reported that the nuclear crisis in Japan has prompted some Americans to purchase potassium iodine on their own. The suppliers of three versions of the medication reported that they were struggling to keep up with demand.
Experts are saying there is no need to panic in the U.S.
"There’s a huge body of water between us and Japan," said Kathryn A. Higley, head of nuclear engineering and radiation health physics at Oregon State University. "I have two kids. I’m not concerned for my kids one iota."