Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has raised the nuclear warning level at the Fukushima Daiichi plant to “serious incident”, its gravest action since the original nuclear meltdown in 2011. It was upgraded from the level 1 “anomaly” to two levels up and is the first time Japan issued a warning on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) since the level 7 warning last March 2011.
The water that is leaking from the plant, as disclosed by theTokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), is so contaminated that standing next to it for an hour will give you radiation five times the recommended annual dose limit for nuclear workers in on year. After 10 hours near the leak, a person would already develop radiation sickness and will experience nausea and a drop in white blood cells. TEPCO announced yesterday that there were around 300 tonnes of water that leaked from one of the stainless steel storage tanks in the plant. The storage units house the water that was used to cool the four damaged reactors and the puddles that have formed around the tank is emitting radiation of 100 millisieverts per hour.
NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka made the announcement on Wednesday that they have upgraded it to Level 3 and a spokesperson for the nuclear watchdog said that they will be closely monitoring the severe situation at Fukushima and determine if the warning level needs to be raised further. “At the moment, we are not sure of the exact cause of the problem or the impact that it might have,” an NRA spokeswoman added. Aside from the leakage inside the plant, TEPCO admitted last month that around 300 tonnes of water has been seeping into the Pacific Ocean everyday. While the government has ordered the utility operator to do everything it can to solve the problem, many believe that TEPCO does not have the capability of fixing it and another accident or earthquake while decommissioning is ongoing will trigger a catastrophic incident.