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Japan nuclear agency upgrades Fukushima alert level

Posted by on Aug. 21, 2013 at 10:38 AM
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Japan nuclear agency upgrades Fukushima alert level

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports that the change in severity level is regarded as "significant"

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Japan's nuclear agency has upgraded the severity level of a radioactive water leak at the Fukushima plant from one to three on an international scale.

Highly radioactive water was found to be leaking from a storage tank into the ground at the plant on Monday.

It was first classified as a level one incident on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (Ines).

But Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority proposes elevating it to level three on the seven-point scale.

Graphic depiction of the Fukushima nuclear plant

Japanese reports say it is a provisional move that had to be confirmed with the IAEA, the UN's nuclear agency.

This week is the first time that Japan has declared an event on the Ines scale since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The move was announced in a document on the agency's website and was subsequently approved at a weekly meeting of the regulatory body.

Shares of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) fell as much as 13% to 537 yen as investors worried about the impact of the development.

'Five-year dose'

This hand out picture taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) on 19 August 2013 shows contaminated water which leaked from a water tank at Fukushima nuclear power plant Workers discovered the water was leaking from a tank on Monday

The March 2011 tsunami knocked out cooling systems to the reactors at the plant, three of which melted down.

Water is now being pumped in to cool the reactors but this means that a large amount of contaminated water has to be stored on site.

What is Ines?

  • Overseen by the UN nuclear agency, the IAEA
  • Events are classified at seven levels: Levels 1-3 are "incidents" and Levels 4-7 "accidents"
  • In order, the levels are classified as: anomaly; incident; serious incident; accident with local consequences; accident with wider consequences; serious accident; major accident
  • To date, two incidents have been classified as level 7 - Chernobyl and Fukushima
  • The severity of an event is about 10 times greater for each increase in level on the scale

Source: IAEA website

There have been leaks of water in the past but this one is being seen as the most serious to date, because of the volume - 300 tonnes of radioactive water, according to Tepco - and high levels of radioactivity in the water.

A puddle of the contaminated water was emitting 100 millisieverts an hour of radiation, Kyodo news agency said earlier this week.

Masayuki Ono, general manager of Tepco, told Reuters news agency: "One hundred millisieverts per hour is equivalent to the limit for accumulated exposure over five years for nuclear workers; so it can be said that we found a radiation level strong enough to give someone a five-year dose of radiation within one hour."

Teams of workers at the plant have surrounded the leaking tank with sandbags and have been attempting to suck up large puddles of radioactive water.

But, reports the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo, it is a difficult and dangerous job. The water is so radioactive that teams must be constantly rotated and it is clear that most of the toxic water has already disappeared into the ground.

Under the Ines, events have seven categories starting with Level 0 ("without safety significance") and Levels 1-3 denoting "incidents" while Levels 4-7 denote "accidents".

The triple meltdown at Fukushima two years ago was classed as a level 7 incident.

Graphic showing the location of the pools of radioactive water found at the Fukushima nuclear plant

Are you in Japan? What do you think about Japan's nuclear agency proposing to upgrade the severity level of a radioactive water leak at the Fukushima plant? Please get in touch using the form below.

by on Aug. 21, 2013 at 10:38 AM
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Replies (1-4):
Ednarooni160
by Eds on Aug. 21, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Why would anyone build nuclear reactors in a country that has fault lines such as Japan does?  The minute I heard they had build the reactors I was pondering..."what on earth are you thinking".

DieselsMom
by Member on Aug. 21, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Scary!

143myboys9496
by Gold Member on Aug. 21, 2013 at 10:52 AM

 The reality of what happened after the Tsunami..is only now coming to light, and in dribbles and drabs.

At first Japan denied a meltdown..now it's 4 reactors that melted down. Unfortunately it'll take them another year to increase the severity level to where it should be..7.

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Aug. 21, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Yikes. At least they are being honest - not what Russia or China would do. Or the dictators in many Middle Eastern countries.

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