Michael Klare:Our Avenging Planet

Last Monday, Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary of Japan, defended the Japanese government's response to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, insisting that the plant complex is in "a stable situation, relatively speaking." That's somewhat like the official description of 11,500 tons of water purposely dumped into the ocean waters off Fukushima as "low-level radioactive" or "lightly radioactive". It is, of course, only "lightly" so in comparison to the even more radioactive water being stored at the plant in its place. But that's the thing with descriptive words: They can leave so much to to the eye of the beholder - and the Japanese hasn't been significantly more eager than the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which runs the complex, to behold all that much when it comes to Fukushima. On Tuesday, the government finally raised the Fukushima alert level on the International Nuclear Event Scale from 5 to 7 (a major accident) - the highest category possible, only previously used for the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, (which resulted in a 15,000-square mile "dead zone" in the Ukraine). Though Japanese government officials rushed to play down the Chernobyl comparison, a Tepco official offered this ominously bet-hedging comment: "Our concern is that the amount of leakage could eventually reach that of Chernobyl or exceed it!"

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