Nuclear threat at Fukushima raised from five to seven, the highest level; despite elevated status, experts say damage will be much smaller than Chernobyl; China hosts Brazil in trade talks; Libyan rebels reject African Union ceasefire; Gbagbo faces trial; and more
Top of the Agenda: Japan Raises Level of Nuke Severity
Officials at Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency raised the severity level of the crisis (al-Jazeera) at the Fukushima nuclear plant from five to seven, the highest level, on par with the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. Despite the elevated status, international experts say, "the impact on environment and population would be much smaller than Chernobyl." A level seven accident (NYT) involves "widespread health and environmental effects" and the "external release of a significant fraction of the reactor core inventory." The scale was developed by the IAEA but leaves it to the nuclear agency of the country where the accident occurs to determine a rating.
Japanese officials said the increase reflects the total release of radiation (BBC) at the damaged plant, which is ongoing, rather than a sudden spike. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said radiation leaks at Fukushima were declining, and plant operators would soon provide a schedule for getting it under control. Nuclear authorities were keen to point out that the amount of radiation released thus far at Fukushima (WSJ) is only about a tenth of what escaped in the Chernobyl accident. However, experts have not ruled out that long-term radiation leaks may top that of Chernobyl. Despite the multiple disasters afflicting Japan, the IMF raised its estimate for the country's growth (FT) in 2012 to 2.1 percent, citing the stimulatory effects of reconstruction spending and investment in the wake of the crises.
Nuclear expert John Ahearne says critics should be careful about drawing conclusions when so much remains unknown about Japan's nuclear crisis, but regulators will need to proceed with safety reviews to bolster public confidence.
This article from the Economist examines the economic costs associated with the Fukushima disaster.
In this piece from ForeignPolicy.com, Robert Madsen and Richard Samuels discuss the triple calamity in Japan as a "black swan" event, an occurrence outside the realm of human imagination.
Damage to Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant has reignited debate over the safety of nuclear power and highlighted questions over aging power plants, safety procedures, and waste disposal.
In this video, CFR's Michael Levi discusses Japan's nuclear disaster and the global implications for nuclear energy.
This interactive from the New York Times shows the levels of radioactivity measured by Tokyo Electric Power at different points around Fukushima Daiichi.
PACIFIC RIM: China Hosts Brazil in Trade Talks
Beijing officials downplayed trade problems (Reuters) with fellow emerging economy Brazil, as President Dilma Rousseff began a five-day visit to improve business relations. Brazilian manufacturers have complained that China's undervalued currency is hindering domestic production.
This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org