Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has raised the level of the nuclear crisis at the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant to a seven, matching the level used to describe Chernobyl. Officials said the increase was a description of the total amount of radiation that has been released, not a sudden spike. The level had previously seen set at five.
In the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, 10 times as much radiation was emitted.
In a statement, Tepco president Masataka Shimizu said, “We deeply apologize for tremendous concerns and inconvenience we are causing the residents in the neighboring areas of the power plant.”
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the outlook at the plant was improving. “Step by step, the reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi power plant are moving toward stability,” he said. An assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency said the situation was still critical but exhibiting “early signs of recovery.”
Unlike Chernobyl, there have been no direct human fatalities at the Fukushima plant. Workers have been exposed to radioactive water and had to evacuate several times due to powerful aftershocks in the area.
Pakistani Government Demands Reduced Role for CIA
Pakistani officials said Monday they are considering placing new restrictions on CIA activity in Pakistan, including reducing drone strikes and overseeing operatives in the country. The message was delivered during a meeting at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., with the head of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and director Leon Panetta.
Though an agency spokesman classified the meeting as “productive,” the new demands reflect an increasingly tense relationship in the alliance to fight al-Qaeda elements in Pakistan. The CIA has increasingly relied on drone strikes in the mountainous parts of Pakistan in which insurgents are based.
The relationship has suffered several high-profile setbacks, including the arrest and eventual acquittal of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who shot and killed two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him.
France Says NATO Should Do More to Protect Libyans
As the siege of Misrata, the only western city in rebel hands, continued to pose a humanitarian crisis for its residents, France urged NATO to do more to target forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told France-Info radio, “NATO has to play its role in full. NATO wanted to take the military command of the operations,” referring to NATO assuming leadership from the United States on March 31.
A NATO general defended the operation and its efforts to protect civilians. “I think with the assets we have, we’re doing a great job,” Dutch Brig. Gen. Mark Van Uhm said.
Gunfire Heard in Abidjan After Arrest of Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo
One day after incumbent president Laurent Gbago was arrested, gunfire was still heard in the streets of Abidjan. Though it was unclear what the source of the firing was, it underscores the challenge before Alassane Ouattara as he seeks to restore order after weeks of violence in the West African nation in which hundreds of people were killed and more than a million displaced.
In an address Monday, Ouattara said, “After more than four months of post-electoral crisis, marked by so many human lives lost, we are finally at the dawn of a new era of hope.” He said a truth and reconciliation commission would be established, and called for both sides to refrain from retaliatory violence.
Ouattara’s forces had been backed by the United Nations and French troops.