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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Japan raises nuke accident severity level to highest 7 from 5

Via Kyodo News :

" Japan on Tuesday raised the severity level of the accident at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to the maximum 7 on an international scale, up from the current 5 and matching that of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

The previous evaluation of 5 on the International Nuclear Event Scale provisionally set by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, a body under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, was at the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979.

While raising the level for the accident, the agency said, however, that the amount of radioactive materials released into the external environment from the nuke plant is estimated to be about 10 percent of the amount released in the Chernobyl catastrophe.

The decision comes after the release of a preliminary calculation Monday by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, which said the crippled nuclear plant was releasing up to 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactive materials per hour at one point after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit northeastern Japan on March 11.

Level 7 accidents on the INES correspond to the release into the external environment of radioactive materials equal to more than tens of thousands of terabecquerels of radioactive iodine 131. One terabecquerel equals 1 trillion becquerels.

The agency estimated that up to 370,000 terabecquerels of radioactive materials had been released in the air while the commission said it estimated 630,000 terabecquerels, both far exceeding the criteria for level 7."

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