What Does Fukushima's Level 7 Mean?
It sounds really, really bad. Is it?
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2011 7:47 AM CDT
In this photo released by TEPCO, a small fire breaks out from facilities sampling seawater located a few dozen meters from Unit 4 inside the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.   (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

(Newser) – Japan has made the decision to raise the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster severity level from 5 to 7. That obviously means "worse." But what else does it mean?

  • Japan finally has an estimate on how much radiation has been released: The level is an indication of the total radioactive materials emitted. Data has revealed that the cumulative amount of radioactive particles released into the atmosphere had reached levels that apply to a Level 7 incident, reports the AP.

  • So what is that estimate? According to two estimates, the equivalent of about 500,000 terabecquerels of radiation from iodine-131 has been released. The Level 7 threshold is "several tens of thousands of terabecquerels."
  • But all 7s are not created alike: The Wall Street Journal notes that officials were careful to say this this is still not a Chernobyl-size disaster. "The amount of released radiation is about a tenth of Chernobyl"—about 5.2 million terabecquerels—said a rep for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
  • But it could still top Chernobyl in one regard: TEPCO today warned that the plant continues to release radioactive materials, and that the total levels emitted could eventually top those released by Chernobyl.
  • Level 7 also indicates widespread effects on the environment and health: The Telegraph noted that Japan's safety commission now says radiation in excess of the amount considered safe for humans during an entire year has been found as far as 37 miles from the plant; the evacuation zone is only 18 miles.
  • Is there another big one we haven't been talking about? Sort of. Besides Chernobyl, Time notes that a 1957 accident in Kyshtym, Russia, was the only one that's come close to being a 7; it was a 6. Most nuclear accidents tend to be a 3 or less.

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Showing 3 of 6 comments
schmidtkoff
Apr 12, 2011 6:24 PM CDT
What Does Fukushima's Level 7 Mean? it means i will be double checking origin of food products. good luck to those sushi aficionados. glad i never had a craving for that crap. fish? who boy, better go for great lakes fish or possible east coast catch. i'm a little hesitant with even sc shrimp etc. gotta check labels. don't trust the japs with their lackadaisical tepid and purposefully forked tongue explanation of levels of radiation and how safe everyone is. quite simply i don't believe their radiation propaganda.
Spudsy
Apr 12, 2011 3:03 PM CDT
"and that the total levels emitted could eventually top those released by Chernobyl." ------ This thing could keep emitting for months, if not years. When will they estimate how much of Japan's limited landmass and coast will become no-man dead zones like around Chernobyl?
finkster
Apr 12, 2011 8:41 AM CDT
A level 7 isn't really that bad......Look at the "bright" side. 1) You won't need lights at night since everyone will be glowing. 2) Hair cuts and Dental Hygiene will be a thing of the past. 3) Life expectancy will dramatically be reduced so we won't have to worry about supporting the old 4) The Burqa (relax France) will come back in fashion since nobody will want to look at each other's deteriorating faces. 5) Health foods will be a thing of the past. 6) Gyms will be a thing of the past. 7) Population control will be a thing of the past (All right China) 8) etc...etc..etc...(add if you'd like)