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Japan Nuclear Plant Crisis Now Rivaling Three Mile Island

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 18, 2011 1:00PM

As workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan work to run a new power line to restore much needed cooling capabilities to the beleaguered plant, Japan's nuclear safety agency raised the threat level to a 5 on the seven-level international scale. That level equals the 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania.

The greatest concern at Fukishima Dai-ichi is getting cooling water to the spent fuel rod pond, where it's believed that control rods are exposed to the air, raising the possibility of radiation being released into the air. So far, safety workers at the plant have fought fires at the pond and at four of the plant's six reactors.

The accident has led both federal and state officials here in the U.S. to react. President Obama has called for a "comprehensive review" of all American reactor plants.

“When we see a crisis like the one in Japan, we have a responsibility to learn from this event, and to draw from those lessons to ensure the safety and security of our people,” Obama said. “That’s why I’ve asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do a comprehensive review of the safety of our domestic nuclear plants in light of the natural disaster that unfolded in Japan.”

Here in Illinois, Gov. Quinn called for ComEd parent company Exelon Corp. to pay higher fees for state inspections of nuclear plants. Quinn proposed the higher fees to "make sure that our Emergency Management Agency has everything it needs to do its safety review job."

Obama also tried to reassure the nation that harmful levels of radiation will not reach the U.S., unless you're flying in from Japan. But the radiation detected by Customs officials at O'Hare are only trace levels that should not raise health risks.