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Q. What's the antidote once there is radioactive fallout?
A. Potassium iodide pills can block uptake of radioactive iodine and protect the thyroid gland, but they must be used quickly. "Ideally, you'd give it before they're exposed or at the time" of exposure, Mettler said. "After 12 hours, it's hardly useful" unless exposure is continuing.
Q. If fallout is occurring, should people flee or stay?
A. Each situation is different and can change rapidly. Japanese officials urged tens of thousands of people to evacuate from a 12-mile zone, but now have told many more in a broader region, about 20 miles from the troubled plant, to seal themselves indoors.
Q. Is this like Chernobyl?
A. No. That Russian plant had no containment vessel around its reactor, so when an explosion occurred, large chunks of radioactive fuel from the core spewed out. That fuel contained cesium, a longer-lasting and more hazardous radioactive material than the shorter-lived radioactive iodine that has mostly been released in Japan. Still, there have been reports of some cesium release in Japan, prompting worries that a meltdown may be occurring.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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