Foreign Policy Blogs

Fukushima crisis level 7 disaster

Japan ranked the severity of the Fukushima nuclear crisis a level 7, the highest possibly rank on an international scale, putting the situation at Fukushima on the same level as Chernobyl. But as FPA blogger Jeff Myher pointed out in his Energy blog, there is a quantitative difference between the ongoing crisis at Fukushima and the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl. The radiation emitted from Fukushima is still only a tenth of what was released at Chernobyl. Because seven is the highest level of severity, once the threshold has been reached, the level can’t be heightened, even if the amount of radiation released increases exponentially.

Prime minister Naoto Kan reassured the public by saying on TV, “Right now, the situation of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant has been stabilizing step by step. The amount of radiation leaks is on the decline. But we are not at the stage yet where we can let our guard down.”

According to an Associated Press article “Japan equates nuclear crisis to Chernobyl” (although that is not actually correct), “The revision was based on cross-checking and assessments of data on leaks of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137. Officials did not say why they skipped level 6 or when exactly the radiation level exceeded the level 7 threshold.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency stressed that the raising of the severity level from five to seven didn’t mean that the situation had worsened, nor that the government had withheld information previously.

However, the public might not believe the IAEA’s defense that the government had previously withheld information. I have noted in several previous posts that the public, as well as foreign governments, suspected that the Japanese government wasn’t keeping them adequately informed on the situation. One of my students told me last night that she doesn’t think its a coincidence that level wasn’t raised until after the Sunday election. In the government’s defense, even if they had made an announcement before the election, no one would have been able to hear it over the loud speakers placed on cars constantly blaring campaign messages while driving around town. I don’t normally buy into conspiracy theories, and I don’t know if that’s actually the case since I can’t read the politicians’ minds, but I do find it hard to believe that for a month since the beginning of the crisis, even with Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s incompetence in measuring radiation levels, that the government didn’t know this was a level 7 disaster.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]