Maritime visits such as those from the 172-metre-long Russian sub Dmitry Donskoi, the world’s largest nuclear submarine currently sailing off Norway’s coast, are no longer a rare event, according to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Statens strålevern, NRPA).
The Russian vessel can carry up to 200 nuclear warheads and is powered by two nuclear reactors.
“We have seen an increasing number of nuclear submarines off Norway’s coast – both visiting allies and Russian submarines patrolling off the coast all the way to Great Britain,” NRPA section manager Astrid Liland told NRK.
Increased numbers of nuclear submarines along the coast of Norway increase the risk of radioactive accidents, say authorities, who have now decided to assess the viability of distributing iodine tablets to parts of the population.
“An accident of this kind with a nuclear-powered submarine could actually occur anywhere along our coast,” Liland said to NRK.
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A study group has been assigned to analyse how iodine tablets, sometimes used as a preventative measure against thyroid cancer in children and young adults after nuclear accidents, can be made available to that group, as well as to women who breastfeed.
For the tablet to have any effect, it must be taken within hours of any exposure to radioactive iodine.
43 crates containing a total of three million iodine tablets are already being stored at a depot in Oslo as one of Norway’s nuclear contingency precautions.
These tablets could be distributed to municipalities in the relevant areas.
Nuclear submarines are not the only reason for the Norwegian authorities’ increased concern over radioactive accidents.
Aging nuclear power plants across Europe as well as increasing tensions between Russia and the West also concern Norwegian authorities, writes NRK.
The Dmitry Donskoi sailed through Danish territorial waters in July as part of a joint exercise between the Russian and Chinese navies.