Now on the same severity level as the Chernobyl disaster, the Japanese government has upgraded the rating of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis to a Level 7 event on the international system for rating nuclear accidents.
“What’s different here from the Chernobyl accident is that we have not yet seen a direct impact on the health of the people as a result of the nuclear accident,” said Edano, the Japanese government’s leading spokesman on the crisis. “The accident itself is big, but we will make, as our first priority, our utmost effort to avoid any health impact on the people.”
Hidehiko Nishiyama, the chief spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that unlike the Chernobyl disaster, the reactors inside the badly damaged buildings at Fukushima Daiichi remain largely intact, “although there are some leaks being seen.”
Nishiyama said Tuesday’s designation was made “provisionally,” and that a final level won’t be set until the disaster is over and a more detailed investigation has been conducted. The previous event level of 5, equal to the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, was also a provisional designation.
Mr. Nishiyama’s agency is part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes the use of nuclear power. Mr. Shiroya’s commission, which is independent from nuclear power operators and their equipment providers, issued an estimate that emissions totaled 630,000 terabecquerels.
According to the New York Times, that works out to 34 percent of the official Soviet estimate of emissions and 17 percent of the unofficial higher estimate.
Mr. Shiroya also said there was a threefold margin for error involved. The outside estimates of total releases would range from as low as 6 percent to as high as 51 percent of the unofficial totals from Chernobyl.