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Japan's Government Declares Nuclear Plant Crisis at Level of Chernobyl

Source: CNN

Posted on 12 Apr 2011

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After the Japanese government officially designated the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant a Chernobyl-level nuclear accident, Prime Minister Naoto Kan vowed to wind down the month-long crisis "at all costs".

Kan said he wants the plant's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, to produce a timetable for bringing the disaster to an end, "and they will be doing that soon." And a day after his government warned that thousands more people would need to be evacuated from the surrounding region, he pledged to provide jobs, housing and education for those uprooted by the accident.

"The government will not forsake the people who are suffering because of the nuclear accident," Kan told reporters in a Tuesday evening news conference.

Japan declared the Fukushima Daiichi crisis a Level 7 event on the international system for rating nuclear accidents Tuesday, putting it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union. The top-scale designation was based on the massive release of radioactivity since the accident began, particularly in its early days, and classifies Fukushima Daiichi a "major accident" requiring long-term countermeasures.

"At all costs, all the reactors and the spent nuclear fuel pools must be brought under control so that we can prevent a further expansion of the damage," Kan said.

Tetsunari Iida, a former nuclear engineer-turned-industry critic, told CNN the declaration has no immediate practical impact on the crisis. But it's a sign that Japanese regulators have rethought their earlier assessments of the disaster, said Iida, who now runs an alternative energy think-tank in Tokyo