Ja­panese nu­clear cri­sis es­ca­lates

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Tokyo

Ja­pan’s nu­clear cri­sis es­ca­lated to its worst level in two years on Wed­nes­day, with its nu­clear watch­dog say­ing it feared more tanks were leak­ing con­tam­i­nated wa­ter, while China ex­pressed its shock over the disas­ter.

Ja­pan’s nu­clear reg­u­la­tor also said it feared the disas­ter ex­ceeded the abil­ity of Tokyo Elec­tric Power Co to cope “in some re­spects”.

A spokesman for the Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tion Au­thor­ity said ear­lier on Wed­nes­day that the agency plans to up­grade the sever­ity of the cri­sis from a level 1 “anom­aly” to a level three “se­ri­ous in­ci­dent” on an in­ter­na­tional scale for ra­di­o­log­i­cal re­leases.

Such a move would be the most se­ri­ous ac­tion taken since the plant was de­stroyed by an earth­quake and tsunami in 2011.

At its height, the Fukushima cri­sis was clas­si­fied as level seven — one of only two events

INES SCALE

ever rated in that cat­e­gory along with the Ch­er­nobyl disas­ter a quar­ter of a cen­tury ago.

Other in­ci­dents that have been ranked level three in­clude the 2005 ra­dioac­tive waste leak at the Bri­tish nu­clear re­pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity in Sel­lafield.

The Ja­panese reg­u­la­tor will now in­form the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency about the leak and con­sult with the UN body over the ac­cu­racy of its as­sess­ment, of­fi­cials said.

“Any way you look at it, this is deplorable,” Chief Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga said at a reg­u­lar news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day. “The govern­ment will make ev­ery ef­fort to halt the leak of con­tam­i­nated wa­ter as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The plant op­er­a­tor, also known as TEPCO, said on Tues­day that con­tam­i­nated wa­ter with dan­ger­ously high lev­els of ra­di­a­tion is leak­ing from a stor­age tank.

The NRA said it was wor­ried about leak­age from other tanks of the same type, which were built hastily to store wa­ter washed over melted re­ac­tors at the sta­tion to keep them cool.

China said it was “shocked” to hear that Fukushima was still leak­ing con­tam­i­nated wa­ter two years af­ter the disas­ter and urged Ja­pan to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion “in a timely, thor­ough and rel­e­vant man­ner”.

“We hope that Ja­pan will earnestly take ef­fec­tive steps to put an end to the neg­a­tive im­pact of the af­ter-ef­fects of the Fukushima nu­clear ac­ci­dent,” China’s For­eign Min­istry said in a state­ment faxed to Reuters in Bei­jing.

The wa­ter in the lat­est leak is so con­tam­i­nated that a per­son stand­ing close to it for an hour would re­ceive five times the an­nual rec­om­mended limit for nu­clear work­ers in a year.

TEPCO has been crit­i­cized for its fail­ure to pre­pare for the disas­ter and ac­cused of cov­er­ing up the ex­tent of the prob­lems at the plant.

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