The Associated Press reported today:
Japan’s nuclear regulators raised the severity level of the crisis at a stricken nuclear plant Tuesday to rank it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, citing the amount of radiation released in the accident.
The regulators said the rating was being raised from 5 to 7 – the highest level on an international scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, there was no sign of any significant change at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
The new ranking signifies a “major accident” with “wider consequences” than the previous level, according to the Vienna-based IAEA.
“We have upgraded the severity level to 7 as the impact of radiation leaks has been widespread from the air, vegetables, tap water and the ocean,” said Minoru Oogoda of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
The report continues:
NISA officials said one of the factors behind the decision was that the cumulative amount of radioactive particles released into the atmosphere since the incident had reached levels that apply to a Level 7 incident.
The revision was based on cross-checking and assessments of data on leaks of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137, said NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama.
“We have refrained from making announcements until we have reliable data,” Nishiyama said.
“The announcement is being made now because it became possible to look at and check the accumulated data assessed in two different ways,” he said, referring to measurements from NISA and the Nuclear Security Council.
The piece also contains this ominous note:
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, is still estimating the total amount of radioactive material that might be released by the accident, said company spokesman Junichi Matsumoto.
He acknowledged the amount of radioactivity released might even exceed the amount emitted by Chernobyl.
Here’s a link to the story: