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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Japan rates Fukushima nuclear accident as 4 on 7-point scale

RIA Novosti

01:37 13/03/2011

MOSCOW, March 13 (RIA Novosti) - The Japanese authorities have described the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant as a "nuclear accident with local consequences" in a report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the DPA news agency said.

The report assigned the accident the level 4 on the international INES scale that runs from 1 (anomaly) to 7 (major accident), the news agency said. According to the IAEA's definition, a level-4 accident is defined as having "local consequences," such as a "minor release of radioactive material."

On Saturday, a powerful blast hit the Fukushima Number One power station, about 250 km (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, which was badly damaged by Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The explosion destroyed the wall of the reactor turbine building, but Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the reactor itself, covered with a steel container, was not damaged.

The Japanese report said the Number One power unit was "generally shut down" around 2.46 p.m. (05:46 GMT) Saturday because of the earthquake.

"After that, the radioactive dosage value at site boundary had exceeded the limit value," it said.

Edano said on Saturday although radiation around the plant earlier was on the rise, it was gradually decreasing. Meanwhile, the Fukushima prefectural government has expanded the evacuation area around the plant from an earlier established 10-kilometer radius to a 20-kilometer radius and began handing out iodine, which helps protect the body from radioactive exposure, to residents of nearby areas.

A Japanese nuclear safety panel said radiation levels were 1,000 times higher than normal in a control room and eight times higher than normal just outside the plant.

The Japanese Kyodo news agency has said the number of victims of Friday's earthquake and tsunami may reach 1,800 as thousands remain unaccounted for following the disaster.

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