TOKYO - Japan raised the severity of its nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to a level 7 from 5, putting it on par with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
The rating reflects the initial severity of the crisis not the current situation which has seen radiation levels drop dramatically.
"This is a preliminary assessment, and is subject to finalization by the International Atomic Energy Agency," said an official at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the government's nuclear watchdog, which made the announcement with the Nuclear Safety Commission.
Japan is struggling to regain control of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated its northeast on March 11, and is facing a major humanitarian and economic crisis.
The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, is published by the IAEA and ranks nuclear and radiological accidents and incidents by their severity from 1 to a maximum of 7.