Japan formally raises Fukushima water leak to INES Level 3 incident

TOKYO Wed Aug 28, 2013 7:30am EDT

1 of 2. Protesters shout slogans at an anti-nuclear rally in front of the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the operator of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in Tokyo August 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's nuclear regulator said on Wednesday it has officially raised the severity rating of the latest radioactive water leak at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to Level 3 on an international scale for radiological releases.

The upgrade by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) raises the rating of what was Japan's first warning on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) since the three reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima plant in March 2011, which were triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami. Those meltdowns were classified as Level 7, the highest INES rating.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said last week that 300 metric tons (330.69 tons) of highly radioactive water leaked from a storage tank at the facility. The utility still does not know how long the water may have been leaking and said it was possible the contaminated water may have reached the Pacific Ocean.

The NRA had said last week that it may upgrade the severity of the crisis from a Level 1 "anomaly" to a Level 3 "serious incident" on the INES scale, after consultations with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Edmund Klamann)

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