Japan has raised the severity level of the crisis at its troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Nuclear regulators raised the rating from 5 to 7 after new assessments of radiation leaks showed significant contamination of air, tap water, vegetables, and seawater.
The new ranking qualifies the situation as a “major accident” and places it on par with the catastrophic Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
A plethora of aftershocks following the initial 9.0 quake continue to complicate attempts to stop the radiation leaks. The latest, a 6.3 magnitude quake, caused a brief evacuation of the plant on Tuesday.
Officials say that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan will soon issue deadlines and goal dates for the stoppage of all leaks.
While most contend that the situation in Japan still pales in comparison to Chernobyl, the upgrade does raise some concerns among Japan’s neighbors. China and South Korea, who have already criticized Japan over its handling of the incident, now must rethink the impact that will be felt in their backyards.