Pharmacies in the Arctic city of Tromsø have been scraped bare of iodine tablets after the first US nuclear submarine docked in the city earlier this week.
According to national broadcaster NRK, only one packet of iodine tablets was left for sale in the entire city in the following days.
"I do not think you can get iodine tablets in Tromsø today. We were not prepared for that demand", pharmacy general manager Hans Petter Leer told NRK. "I am surprised by the reaction in the population. There are people on a waiting list to get tablets".
The demand exploded after Tromsø Municipality sent out information to parents with children in kindergarten and school that one should have iodine tablets at home. Furthermore, all schools and kindergartens are required to have an inventory of iodine tablets in the event of an accident. Iodine is also recommended for children under 18, pregnant and breastfeeding women, but also for people up to 40 years of age.
The Tromsø Municipality admittedly had trouble completing its contingency plan before the first call, which included the tablets.
"We have been clear in the coordination meetings that we haven't had the time to dispense iodine tablets", emergency adviser Leikny Bakke Lie said. "But then the call came a little abruptly, and we had a little bad time".
The head of the parents' committee at Tromsdalen school, Guro Lægreid, argued that the tablets should have been distributed years ago.
"An accident could have occurred a long time ago, and it doesn't have to have anything to do with the nuclear submarine. It could have come from other places. So everything should have been in place earlier", she said.
Chief physician in the Tromsø Municipality, Trond Brattland, said the distribution of the tablets had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, a port call by the USS New Mexico, the first one by a nuclear submarine in more than a decade, triggered protests from locals and opposition politicians, who ventured that this practice drags Norway deeper into the superpower struggle and increases the risk of Tromsø becoming a "bomb target".
This year an extensive 80-page analysis by the Armed Forces earlier ruled a nuclear accident to be an unlikely scenario. However, the consequences, should it nevertheless happen, were described as "death, damage to health over time, or radioactive harm to nature and the environment".
Tromsø's civil harbour was designated to welcome NATO nuclear submarine despite broad popular resistance and environmental risks. This is largely seen as yet another sign of escalation in the north, where jet interceptions and military drills have become increasingly commonplace.