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Japan upgrades nuclear emergency to Seven

published  First Published: 12/04/2011
Article written by: Nigel Brookson


Japan upgrades nuclear emergency to Seven

Japan officials have upgraded the nuclear emergency to the maximum 'seven' on an international scale of atomic crises; the first time since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 that a nuclear accident has reached the maximum crisis level.

The changing of grading, now described as a "major accident" with "widespread health and environmental effects" puts the Fukushima power plant on a par with what was the world's worst ever peacetime nuclear event 25 years ago at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

Japan's Nuclear Safety Agency, still down playing the comparison with Chernobyl, say radiation emissions from the Fukushima plant; whose cooling system was knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, were equal to only 10 percent of the Chernobyl catastrophe, and that the two events were very different.

In Chernobyl, there was acute exposure to a high level of radiation, and 29 people died from it. This is not the case in Fukushima.
In Chernobyl, reactors themselves exploded. In Fukushima, the reactors themselves have stayed intact, although we are seeing some leakage, said an official.

The earthquake and massive tsunami that followed; which actually caused more damage, crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeast Japan, and is confirmed to have killed 13,219 people, with more than 14,000 people still unaccounted for.

Nuclear experts have said a partial meltdown took place when the cooling systems failed, causing a series of explosions that leaked radioactive material into the atmosphere.

The Japanese Government had ordered tens of thousands of residents to evacuate from inside a 20km radius from the plant; which world experts say should be extended, but the government said it would order people to leave only certain areas outside this 'exclusion zone' due to concerns over the effect of long-term exposure to radiation, but that a uniform extension of the zone was not appropriate.

Emergency crews working in short shifts around the clock at the plant have advised the government that the danger of a large leak of radioactive materials was becoming 'significantly smaller'.

Level seven incidents involve a 'major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures', according to the UN's International Nuclear Events Scale.

So far by comparison, the meltdown at Chernobyl leaked a larger amount of toxic radiation, poisoning large areas of land, water and vegetation plus affecting thousands of lives; which the UN put at 4,000 in 2005, but non government groups have estimating tens or even hundreds of thousands of people have died as a direct result of the accident.

The re grading from level five to level seven was announced as Japan felt yet another aftershock from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11. The 6.2 magnitude tremor hit 77km east of Tokyo on Tuesday and shook buildings in the capital, temporarily shutting down subway services, the runways of Narita international airport, and halting bullet trains; in the latest of over 400 major aftershocks stronger than 5.0 in magnitude since March 11.

There are reportedly upwards of 150,000 people, who are still in emergency shelters after losing their homes or being evacuated from around the leaking Fukushima plant.




Related Article: Radiation Leaks Now Harmful to Humans, Japan Devastated by Earthquake Tsunami, Health Effects from Radiation


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