Japan raises severity of nuclear accident - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Japan raises severity of nuclear accident

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In this Tuesday, March 15, 2011 image released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., smoke billows from Unit 3, left, at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. In this Tuesday, March 15, 2011 image released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., smoke billows from Unit 3, left, at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's nuclear safety agency raised the severity rating of the country's nuclear crisis Friday from Level 4 to Level 5 on a seven-level international scale, putting it on par with the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979.

Ryohei Shiomi, a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency, said Friday that the agency raised the rating of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The scale defines a Level 4 incident as having local consequences and a Level 5 incident as having wider consequences.

The hallmarks of a Level 5 emergency are severe damage to a reactor core, release of large quantities of radiation with a high probability of "significant" public exposure or several deaths from radiation.

A partial meltdown at Three Mile Island also was ranked a Level 5. The Chernobyl accident of 1986, which killed at least 31 people with radiation sickness, raised long-term cancer rates, and spewed radiation for hundreds of miles (kilometers), was ranked a Level 7.

France's Nuclear Safety Authority has been saying since Tuesday that the crisis in northeastern Japan should be ranked Level 6 on the scale.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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