BBC, REUTERS, AL JAZEERA
TOKYO - The Japanese nuclear agency upgraded the severity level of a toxic leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant from 1 to 3 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (0 to 7). The raising of the toxic level Wednesday marks the first time Japan has issued such a warning since three reactor meltdowns after the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.
Highly radioactive water was found to be leaking from a storage tank into the ground at the plant on Monday, according to the BBC. On Tuesday, officials confirmed that about 300,000 litres of contaminated water had leaked from a tank designed to hold overflows from the site.
According to Reuters, the leaked water is so contaminated that a person standing close to it for an hour would receive five times the annual recommended limit for nuclear workers in a year.
The plant operator TEPCO said the leak does not pose an immediate threat to the sea because the tank is about 100 meters from the coastline, according to Al Jazeera. But a watchdog spokesman said the water could reach the sea via a drain gutter.
Plant workers have surrounded the leaking tank with sandbags and have attempted to suck up the radioactive water. But a BBC reporter in Tokyo said it is clear that most of the toxic water has already disappeared into the ground.