Japan yesterday issued its highest-level warning over the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi plant since a tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis two years ago, saying there was “no time to lose” to seal a tank that has leaked 300 tonnes of radioactive water.
Nuclear regulators said the leak represented a level three “serious incident” on the UN’s seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which measures radiation accidents.
“Something that we were very much concerned about has occurred,” Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) chairman Shunichi Tanaka told a meeting in Tokyo. “We are in a situation where there is no time to lose.”
The alert, raised from level one which indicates an “anomaly,” is the most serious declared at the ruined plant since March 2011, when a quake-generated tsunami knocked out reactor cooling systems and sparked meltdowns.
At its height, the Fukushima disaster was classified as level seven — one of only two events ever rated in that category along with the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
The NRA said in a statement that the amount of radiation leakage and the “fact that there is no safety protective layer remaining at the facility” meant the level three warning needed to be declared. It will now consult with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the reassessment, it said.
In Vienna, IAEA spokesman Gill Tudor said his agency was aware of media reports about the intended upgrade and it was ready to provide assistance on request.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the incident was “extremely deplorable.”