Japan Nuclear Crisis Upgraded to Highest Level, on Par With Chernobyl

Poor Japan. The nation's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has upgraded the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to a 7 on the 7-point International Nuclear Event Scale. To put that in perspective, the only other nuclear event ever declared a 7 was the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1987. The New York Times:

The decision to raise the alert level to 7 from 5 on the scale, overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency, is based on new estimates by Japanese authorities that suggest that the total amount of radioactive materials released so far from Fukushima Daiichi since the beginning of the crisis had reached that threshold. Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said that the total amount of radioactive materials released so far from Fukushima Daiichi equaled about 10 percent of that released in the Chernobyl disaster.

But at a separate news conference, an official from the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, said that the radiation release from Fukushima could, in time, surpass levels seen in 1986.

Because of a number of factors, authorities cannot pinpoint the exact amount of radiation that has been and willbe released in Japan, but there seems to now be agreement that "the human and environmental consequences of the nuclear crisis could be dire and long-lasting," according to the Times. The 7 rating means that the nuclear event involves “widespread health and environmental effects” and the “external release of a significant fraction of the reactor core inventory.”

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at April 12, 2011, 4:36am

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