Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission has raised the severity level of the crises at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant to the highest rating on the international scale. The event is now rated as a Level 7, which equals the disaster at Chernobyl.
"We have upgraded the severity level to 7 as the impact of radiation leaks has been widespread from the air, vegetables, tap water and the ocean," said Minoru Oogoda of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), said an Associated Press report on NPR.
According to The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, a Level 7 disaster, the worst situation possible, is a major disaster with an impact on both people and the environment. The scale says at this level a "major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects has occurred and requires the implementation of planned and extended countermeasures."
The last rating issued by the NISA for the Japanese nuclear crises was a Level 5, in the weeks that followed the initial earthquake and tsunami that leveled entire villages. The devastating wave destroyed homes and business, killing thousands of people, and destroying the nuclear power plant at Fukushima Daiichi.
The disaster at Three Mile Island was rated a Level 5, while the nuclear disaster in Chernoybl was rated a Level 7. The Chernobyl disaster, that occurred in 1986, transformed the city of Pripyat into a virtual ghost town within days of the meltdown. The reactor was eventually covered by a towering concrete sarcophagus built to contain and minimize the radioactive contamination from what was considered the worst nuclear disaster in history.
Twenty-five years later, the exclusion zone around Chernobyl remains a wasteland and is still closed to permanent residents. The still contaminated area has recently been opened by the Ukrainian government for 'extreme tours' for those wanting to venture inside the radioactive perimeter.
The memories and news from the three worst disasters has public confidence in the United States at an all-time low on emergency preparedness for another nuclear crises on American soil, according to a recent AP poll.
In other news today, Tuesday morning, from the Fukuskima Daiichi nuclear plant, a "fire broke out at the crisis-stricken nuclear plant in northeastern Japan but was soon extinguished, reports Kyodo News.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said "the fire occurred at the sampling building near the distribution switchboard close to the water discharge channel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's reactors."
"There was no change in the levels of radiation around the reactor," TEPCO officials added.
The NISA press conference comes a day after the one month anniversary of the Japanese environmental disaster. The one month mark was mourned by the Japanese survivors "with sirens wailing and heads bowed as people wept along the devastated coast", reports AOL News.
"My chest has been ripped open by the suffering and pain that this disaster has caused the people of our prefecture," said Yuhei Sato, the governor of Fukushima, which saw its coastal areas devastated by the tsunami and contains the damaged plant at the center of the nuclear crisis. "I have no words to express my sorrow."