Japan upgrades Fukushima radioactive water leak danger to Level 3

In a sudden turn of events at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the Japanese nuclear watchdog has announced that it was raising the level of danger from the radioactive water leak that it announced earlier.

After 300 tons of highly radioactive water was found spreading near the storage tanks in the plant, the government had declared that it was a level 1 incident - called an 'anomaly' - on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). It would now be raised to that of a "serious incident", ie, level 3, according to a spokesperson for Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), reports said.

This marks the first instance of Japan issuing a warning on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) since three reactor meltdowns after the massive quake of March 2011. A maximum level 7 was declared at the battered plant after explosions caused loss of power and cooling two years ago, in what came as a confirmation that Fukushima was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier.

According to the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, contaminated water with dangerously high levels of radiation was leaking from a storage tank at Fukushima. The contamination at the leak was so intense that a person standing 50 cm (1.6 feet) away would, within an hour, receive a radiation dose five times the average annual global limit for nuclear workers.

The worker would develop radiation sickness with symptoms, including nausea and a drop in white blood cells after 10 hours exposure in proximity to the leak.

Managing the vast quantities of contaminated water at the plant has proved to be extremely challenging to Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which is in charge of the plant, according to CNN.

The news agency, quoted a TEPCO spokesman as saying that the company might finish removing radioactive water from a leaky tank to another tank at the plant by today, to combat the latest leak.

Scientists have cited the high levels of radiation in the vicinity of the plant for over a year as evidence of an ongoing leak.

The company admitted last month that radioactive groundwater was leaking into the Pacific Ocean from the plant even though it had constructed an underground barrier to seal the water.

In a statement on its website, the NRA said, the plant "remains in an unstable condition with various risks to be addressed and in particular managing the issue of contaminated water as a high priority."