UPDATE 1-French nuclear agency now rates Japan accident at 6

Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:30pm EDT

Related Topics

* Situation clearly a catastrophe -- French safety authority

* U.S. think tank says disaster may reach level seven

* Used only once before, for Chernobyl

(adds think-tank on level 7 possible)

PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) - France's ASN nuclear safety authority said on Tuesday the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (9501.T) Fukushima Daiichi plant could now be classed as level six out of an international scale of one to seven.

On Monday, the ASN had rated the ongoing accident at the plant, located 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, as a five or six.

Level seven has been used only once, for Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986. The 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the United States was rated a level five.

"We are now in a situation that is different from yesterday's. It is very clear that we are at a level six, which is an intermediate level between what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl," ASN President Andre-Claude Lacoste told a news conference in Paris on Tuesday.

"We are clearly in a catastrophe," Lacoste added, citing the deterioration of the containment structure at Daiichi 2 as one of the key elements supporting the ASN's more pessimistic assessment.

Two reactors exploded on Tuesday at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after days of frantic efforts to cool them.

Japan, which rated the accident a four on Saturday, is under global scrutiny over its handling of a nuclear crisis triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami that crippled three reactors and raised fears of an uncontrolled radiation leak.

A U.S.-based think-tank said the situation had "worsened considerably" and that it was now closer to a level 6 event, "and it may unfortunately reach a level 7."

"A level 6 event means that consequences are broader and countermeasures are needed to deal with the radioactive contamination," the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in a statement.

"A level 7 event would constitute a larger release of radioactive material, and would require further extended countermeasures," it said, adding the international community should step up assistance to Japan. (Reporting by Mathile Cru in Paris and by Sylvia Westall and Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; writing by Marie Maitre; editing by Matthew Jones)

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Comments (5)
One must ask, why did the nuclear experts who designed and built the facility choose a sea-side site, in an area that is prone to seismic activity? The word, “tsunami” is a Japanese word, one would think that these intelligent and practical folks would have built their nuclear plants far enough inland to make them safe from tsunamis.

How many other sea-side reactors are located within tsunami range?

Mar 15, 2011 5:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dlweld wrote:
For those knowing commentators who say it’s over reacting to call it Chernobyl-like. Chernobyl didn’t have tons and tons of spent fuel stored above its reactors in open tanks, Chernobyl was only 1 reactor melting down, not 4 melting down, Chernobyl was in a deserted area, not next to 26 million people and the core of a good percentage of the world’s economy. So it’s clear it’s not a Chernobyl level incident – we can all rest easy.

Mar 15, 2011 5:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bctrout wrote:
I wish that industry supported experts, spokes persons, budget controllers and politicians, etc., would be held accountable for their preliminary cavalier underestimation of the impacts resulting from events like this. What genius approved the location of this facility within a readily apparent tsunamis zone? The track record of reported incidents indicates that currently active facilities are not designed with the capability of re-establishing containment. All further nuclear facility developments should be halted until designers can develop some type of remote shut down ability.

Mar 15, 2011 6:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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