Japan put its nuclear calamity on a par with the worlds worst nuclear disaster,Chernobyl,on Tuesday after new data showed that more radiation leaked from its earthquake-crippled power plant in the early days of the crisis than first thought.
Japanese officials said it had taken time to measure radiation from the plant after it was smashed by March 11s massive quake and tsunami,and the upgrade in its severity rating to the highest level on a globally recognised scale did not mean the situation had suddenly become more critical.
The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is slowly stabilising,step by step,and the emission of radioactive substances is on a declining trend, Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a press briefing on Tuesday. Kan said he wanted to move from emergency response to long-term rebuilding. A month has passed. We need to take steps towards restoration and reconstruction, he said.
The operator of the stricken facility appears to be no closer to restoring cooling systems at the reactors,critical to lowering the temperature of overheated nuclear fuel rods. Late on Tuesday,Japans science ministry said small amounts of strontium,one of the most harmful and long-lasting radioactive elements,had been found in soil near Fukushima Daiichi.
Hidehiko Nishiyama,a deputy director-general of Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA),said the decision to raise the severity of the incident from level 5 to 7 the same as the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 was based on cumulative quantities of radiation released. No radiation-linked deaths have been reported and only 21 plant workers have been affected by minor radiation sickness, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.