Japan Raises Severity Level At Nuclear Plant Japanese nuclear authorities have elevated the disaster at Fukushima to level 7, the same as the meltdown at Chernobyl 25 years ago. But level 7 in Japan is not the same as it was in Russia. Melissa Block talks to NPR's Richard Harris, who explores the differences between the two biggest nuclear accidents in history.
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Japan Raises Severity Level At Nuclear Plant

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Japan Raises Severity Level At Nuclear Plant

Japan Raises Severity Level At Nuclear Plant

Japan Raises Severity Level At Nuclear Plant

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/135354910/135354887" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Japanese nuclear authorities have elevated the disaster at Fukushima to level 7, the same as the meltdown at Chernobyl 25 years ago. But level 7 in Japan is not the same as it was in Russia. Melissa Block talks to NPR's Richard Harris, who explores the differences between the two biggest nuclear accidents in history.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Here to explain is NPR's Richard Harris. And Richard, let's explain, first of all, that previously, Japan had rated this a Level 5. Now it's up to seven. Does that mean that the accident is more serious than they had thought?

RICHARD HARRIS: And the International Atomic Energy Agency says the plant is generally becoming more stable, but the situation is not fully under control. So we should remember that it's still possible we could still see some big releases.

BLOCK: Now, the earthquake and the tsunami happened one month ago. Japan's just now coming up with this new rating, Level 7. Does that affect how Japan deals with the crisis at the plant?

HARRIS: So - but the contamination is spotty, and most of the areas surveyed, it's not a concern. Of course, let's remember there are a still 150,000 people who are homeless as a result of the tsunami, and that is a big issue up there still.

BLOCK: Sure. There is an apparent contradiction here, isn't there, Richard? This new rating, as we said, puts the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in the same category as the Chernobyl plant. But as you've been explaining, the radiation released from Chernobyl was much, much worse. So how does that compute?

HARRIS: Also, critically, the Soviets didn't stop people from drinking the milk, and that ended up causing a lot of thyroid cancer. So, Japan has responded a lot differently than that, and that really affects the response that we've seen.

BLOCK: Okay, NPR's Richard Harris, thank you.

HARRIS: My pleasure.

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