The operators of the stricken Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan have warned that radiation levels could exceed those from the world’s worst nuclear disaster unless the leaks are stopped.
The warning came on the day Japanese nuclear officials raised the severity of the incident to a maximum ‘level seven’ – on a par with Chernobyl.
They said they now realised that more radiation had leaked from the plant in the days immediately after the earthquake and tsunami than had been thought.
At the moment, officials say radiation that has leaked from Fukushima is around a tenth of that which escaped from the Chernobyl plant in 1986.
Scientists point out that Chernobyl’s containment systems were destroyed in the explosion, and Fukushima’s are still holding.
The government was keen to point out that despite the increased severity, progress is being made.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said: “The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is stabilising step by step and the emissions of radioactive substances are on the decline.”
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary made moves to reassure the public about the safety of food grown in the region.
He tasted vegetables to allay fears about supplies on supermarket shelves.