The Washington Post, New York Times, Al Jazeera and many other media are reporting that Japanese authorities announced Tuesday morning they planned to raise their rating of the severity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis from a 5 to a 7, which is the highest level on an international scale for nuclear incidents, equal to that of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
I tried to find an impartial video explaining the situation. This one from RT is as close as I could get. I hope it is impartial enough.
A level 7 accident, according to the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, is typified by a “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects.”
There is a good post by Krista Mar of Time on what a level 7 is, and what this change of status means here. Among other things, it reports:
Tuesday’s announcement comes on the back of a minor fire spotted by workers outside Fukushima’s reactor 4 on Tuesday morning, shortly after the second of three major aftershocks to hit the beleaguered northeast in the space of 24 hours. Three people in Iwaki died in landslides triggered by the 7.1 aftershock on Monday evening. The government also expanded the exclusion zone around Fukushima on Monday to include several towns within a 30-km (19-mile) radius that had formerly been told that they could remain at home, but were recommended to stay indoors. The towns now added to the mandatory evacuation zone were found to have high levels of radiation.
The raising of the severity level at Fukushima does not mean the severity of the disaster has changed – only that the rating has been upgraded. Still, it is sure to add to growing feelings of concerns and helplessness about Fukushima and the dozens of other nuclear power plants in this earthquake-prone island nation.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.