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Japan puts nuclear crisis on par with Chernobyl

Posted by on April 12, 2011 0 Comment

Japan has decided to raise the severity level of the crisis at its tsunami-stricken nuclear power plant to 7 — the highest level and equal to the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union.

Quoting sources at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), Kyodo News agency and public broadcaster NHK both said Tuesday that NISA would raise the severity level of the nuclear radiation disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant to 7 from the current 5.

NISA spokesman Minoru Oogoda declined to confirm the reports.

The report came as the government expanded an evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant because of the high levels of accumulated radiation since a tsunami ripped through the complex on March 11 after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, causing massive damage to its reactors.

The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, published by the International Atomic Energy Agency, ranks nuclear incidents by severity from 1 to a maximum of 7.

Japan had previously assessed the accident at reactors operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) at level 5, the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979.

TEPCO said on Monday it had stopped the discharges of low-level radioactive water into the sea that have drawn complaints from neighbouring China and South Korea.

Also Monday, shortly after Japan marked one month since the quake, a huge aftershock shook a wide swathe of eastern Japan, killing two people, and knocking out power to 220,000 homes.

And early Tuesday, a strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 jolted Tokyo and its environs.

It was one of more than 400 aftershocks above a 5 magnitude to have hit the country since March 11.

Because of accumulated radiation contamination, the government is encouraging people to leave certain areas beyond its 20-km exclusion zone around the plant. Thousands of people could be affected by the move. Agencies

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