in order to give a break to the insurance companies, says Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's state nuclear agency Rosatom.
From New York Post (4/26/2011):
SANYA, China -- The disaster at the Fukushima atomic power plant cannot be compared to Chernobyl, Russia's nuclear chief said Wednesday, suggesting that Tokyo was exaggerating the emergency possibly for financial reasons.
"It is hard for me to assess why the Japanese colleagues have taken this decision," Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's state nuclear agency Rosatom, told reporters in the southern Chinese city of Sanya on the eve of the BRICS summit. "I suspect this is more of a financial issue than a nuclear one."
Earlier this week Japan upgraded its month-old nuclear emergency to a maximum seven on an international scale of atomic crises, placing it on a par with the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Kiriyenko appeared to suggest that the Japanese authorities were seeking to reduce the burden on insurance companies.
Kiriyenko added that at first the Japanese authorities had thought to downplay the scale of the disaster but now the situation at the plant was improving.
"Our estimates have shown that the level was between five and six," Kiriyenko said. "Today it doesn't reach the sixth level."
France's nuclear safety agency also said this week that the impact of the Fukushima accident was not comparable to the Chernobyl disaster.
Fukushima has had three reactors that have hit problems, compared with one at Chernobyl.
But the Japanese plant has released only one-tenth of the radioactivity disgorged by Chernobyl because its reactor vessels have so far remained intact, thus keeping almost all of the nuclear fuel enclosed.
The previous rating of five had placed the unfolding disaster at the tsunami-hit Fukushima plant northeast of Tokyo on the same level as the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania.
Level seven of the UN's International Nuclear Events Scale describes events with "major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects, requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.