The severity level at the crippled, radiation-seeping Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station may be raised from a level five to a level seven on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, Kyodo News reports. The reason for this is that "at some point" the plant had been releasing 10,000 terabecquerels levels of radioactive materials per hour for "several hours."
While the amount of radiation released has declined to apparently manageable levels, government officials are considering upping the INES severity level of the crisis from what would be on par with the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster in the United States (classified as a five on a seven point scale) to a seven, which would be equivalent to the Russia's 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Chernobyl-Fukushima comparisons in terms of severity have been debated, and Japanese officials have--at least at one point--considered entombing the plant in concrete in a similar way that Chernobyl was eventually dealt with. The severity level has not officially been raised to a seven, however. As of Monday afternoon EST, Reuters has reported that Japan's nuclear safety watchdog spokesperson has said that "he was unaware of any move by the government to raise the level."
Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric Power Company workers at the site--pictured above--are working remotely at the compound in order to clear debris at the damaged plant. And the government has expanded the evacuation zone (which comprised of 82,000 people within a 30 km area) to include even more towns. Officials didn't currently know "how many people would be displaced by the new evacuation orders," CNN reported.