- The European Union said that it is preemptively donating 5.5 million anti-radiation tablets to Ukraine.
- Potassium iodide will help protect civilians if there's an accident from fighting at a nuclear plant.
- Southern Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia has seen recent shelling, sparking international concern.
The European Union is sending 5.5 million anti-radiation tablets to Ukraine so it can protect civilians in the event of a serious accident at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which has been caught in the middle of ongoing fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
Ukraine requested last week that the EU donate potassium iodide tablets as a "preventative safety measure," European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) said in a Tuesday statement. Doing so would provide civilians near the plant — which has seen increasing hostilities — with protection from potential radiation exposure.
A nuclear accident can lead to radioactive iodine being breathed into the lungs and then quickly absorbed by the thyroid gland, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Potassium iodide can block radioactive iodine from ending up in the gland.
When a person takes the potassium iodide tablets, the thyroid gland takes in the medicine and is not able to absorb any more radioactive iodine, the CDC said.
Five million of the tablets are coming from the EU's emergency reserves, ECHO said, while the other 500,00 are being donated by Austria.
Southern Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is the largest in Europe and has been occupied by Russian forces since early March. Since then, international watchdogs have voiced concern that unsafe behavior could trigger a major nuclear disaster.
In recent weeks, shelling around the plant has damaged the facility and disconnected it from the local power grid. Britain's Defense Ministry has said that the occupying Russian forces appear to be using the plant's protective status as a shield, leaving Ukraine reluctant to attack because it doesn't want to cause a disaster.
"No nuclear power plant should ever be used as a war theatre," EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said in a statement. "It is unacceptable that civilian lives are put in danger. All military action around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant must stop immediately."
On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency's chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said a mission is traveling to the nuclear plant this week to inspect its safety, stability, and security.