Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tokyo extends evacuation zone; raises nuclear emergency to Chernobyl-level

Just hours after our field radiation team held a press conference calling for further evacuation around Fukushima, the Japanese government announced that it will extend the mandatory evacuation zone around the stricken nuclear plant to 30km and evacuate the contaminated towns of Namie, Iitate and parts of Minamisoma within one month.
Japan raised the severity of its nuclear crisis to the highest level on Tuesday, putting it on a par with the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 because of the amount of radiation released into the air and sea.

As another major aftershock rattled the earthquake-ravaged east of the country, a fire broke out at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, although engineers later appeared to have extinguished the blaze. Developments in recent days suggest the operator of the stricken facility is no closer to restoring cooling systems at the reactors, which is critical to bringing down the temperature of overheated nuclear fuel rods.

An official at Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said that based on cumulative levels of radiation released, the severity of the incident had been raised to 7, the worst on an internationally recognized scale...The month-long nuclear crisis that has gripped Japan following an earthquake and tsunami has claimed up to 28,000 lives and the estimated cost stands at $300 billion, making it the world's most expensive disaster.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said the amount of radiation released into the atmosphere from the plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, was around 10 percent that of Chernobyl. However, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) warned the release could eventually exceed Chernobyl if leaks were not halted. "Radiation released into the atmosphere peaked from March 15 to 16. Radiation is still being released, but the amount now has fallen considerably," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, NISA's deputy director-general.

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