Japan Nuclear "7" Like Chernobyl?

Technology

Japan Nuclear 7 Like Chernobyl?

Japan has reassessed the severity of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Now it has rated it a "7", the highest on the international scale and equal to Chernobyl. Is this looking backward, forward or a snapshot of the current situation? The United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency also re-calibrates its assessment.

e United Nations atomic agency (IAEA) today (12 Apr) confirmed that Japanese authorities had provisionally raised the severity level for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was damaged in last month’s earthquake to 7, the same level given to the 1986 Chernobyl accident.

The plant suffered major damage from the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on 11 March and has been spewing radioactive contamination into the environment ever since.

Denis Flory, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, told a news conference in Vienna that the re-evaluation of the rating on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) resulted from an estimate of the total amount of radioactivity released to the environment from the nuclear plant.

SOUNDBITE (English) Denis Flory, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of Department of Nuclear Safety and Security:
“We can confirm that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, NISA, has submitted a provisional International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, INES, Level 7 rating for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This new provisional rating considers the accidents that occurred at Units 1, 2 and 3 as a single event on INES and uses estimated total release to the atmosphere as a justification of the new rating.”

The new provisional rating considers the accidents that occurred at Units 1, 2 and 3 of the plant as a single event on INES. Previously, separate INES Level 5 ratings had been applied for Units 1, 2 and 3. The provisional INES Level 3 rating assigned for Unit 4 still applies.

SOUNDBITE (English) Denis Flory, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of Department of Nuclear Safety and Security:
“NISA estimates that the release of radioactive material to the atmosphere is approximately 10% of the Chernobyl accident, which is the only other accident to have an INES Level 7 rating.”

The INES scale, developed jointly in 1990 by the IAEA and the nuclear energy agency of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is a way to communicate the significance of nuclear and radiological events to the public.

The highest, Level 7, is used to describe an event comprised of a major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.

Flory also reported a new severe aftershock that struck Fukushima prefecture yesterday and temporarily forced the plant to suspend operations. NISA has confirmed that no changes were observed on the readings at the on-site radiation monitoring posts following the 6.6 magnitude quake.

SOUNDBITE (English) Denis Flory, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of Department of Nuclear Safety and Security:
“We can confirm also that an earthquake occurred in Japan at 8 hours and 16 minutes UTC, on the 11 of April and the IAEA International Seismic Safety Centre rated it as a 6.6 magnitude, revised from an initial 7.1. The epicentre of the earthquake was in Fukushima Prefecture.”

He said that, overall, the situation at the plant remains very serious, but there are early signs of recovery in some functions such as electrical power and instrumentation.


Details

Language: English

Year of Production: 2011

Length: 1:30 mins

Country: Japan

Directors:

  • Mo Sacirbey UNTV-IAEA

Producers:

  • Susan Sacirbey