Evidence of partial meltdown prompts higher severity rating

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

TOKYO (AP) - Japan's nuclear safety agency says it's raised the severity rating of the country's nuclear crisis after discovering evidence of a partial meltdown.

The agency says officials declared it a level 5 event after they realized that at least 3 percent of the fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant had been severely damaged. That suggests those reactor cores have partially melted down and thrown radioactivity into the environment.

The situation had been classified as a level 4 on the international nuclear event scale, defined as having local consequences.

A level 5 puts it on a par with the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. The hallmarks of a level 5 emergency are severe damage to a reactor core, release of large quantities of radiation with a high probability of “significant” public exposure or several deaths from radiation.

The 1986 Chernobyl accident was a level 7, the highest on the scale. At least 31 people died of radiation sickness in that disaster, which spewed radiation for hundreds of miles.
(COPYRIGHT 2011 BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)


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