TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan raised the severity of its nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to a level 7 from 5, putting it on par with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
The rating reflects the initial severity of the crisis not the current situation which has seen radiation levels drop dramatically.
Japan is struggling to regain control of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated its northeast on March 11, and is facing a major humanitarian and economic crisis.
The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES)ranks nuclear incidents by their severity from 1 to a maximum of 7.
Here are some comments on the higher rating:
MURRAY JENNEX, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR SAN DIEGO STATE
"I think raising it to the level of Chernobyl is excessive. It's nowhere near that level. Chernobyl was terrible -- it blew and they had no containment, and they were stuck.
"Their containment has been holding, the only thing that hasn't is the fuel pool that caught fire. I don't see those as the same event. If they want to do that, that's fine. I think they're being overly pessimistic."
KENJI SUMITA, OSAKA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR
"Raising the level to a 7 has serious diplomatic implications. It is telling people that the accident has a potential of causing trouble to our neighbors.
"I think a Level 7 is very extreme."
JAPAN'S NUCLEAR INDUSTRY AND SAFETY AGENCY
"According to the INES rating procedure, a provisional rating is given at the onset of an accident. The rating remains on a provisional status until the accident is deemed over, when a final rating is given upon analysis by a committee of experts. As for Daiichi the problems are still ongoing..."
(Reporting by Michael Perry, Yoko Nishikawa, Mayumi Negishi)