Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Reaches Chernobyl Threat Level

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The situation at Japan’s ailing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant continues to be bleak, as officials on Tuesday raised the threat level from 5 to 7—the highest on the international scale and equal to the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl.

While officials said they believe that the levels of radiation released so far are only 10 percent of the Chernobyl release, the projections for the long term are grim. “The radiation leak has not stopped completely and our concern is that it could eventually exceed Chernobyl,” Junichi Matsumoto, an executive of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., told the New York Times.

From Japan’s Kyodo News:

A considerable amount of radioactive materials emitted is believed to originate from the plant’s No. 2 reactor, whose containment vessel’s pressure suppression chamber was damaged by an explosion on March 15, said Kenkichi Hirose, a Cabinet Office adviser serving for the safety commission, at a news conference.

“Our estimates suggest the amount of radioactive materials released into the air sharply rose on March 15 and 16 after abnormalities were detected at the No. 2 reactor,” Hirose said. ”The cumulative amount of leaked radiation has been gradually on the rise, but we believe the current emission level is significantly low.”

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