Fukushima 'worse than Three Mile Island' - French watchdog
The Fukushima nuclear accident is "worse than Three Mile Island but not as great as Chernobyl," Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of France's safety agency, said on Monday.
The 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania rates five on an international scale of zero to seven, while Chernobyl is put at seven, the highest.
Japan's nuclear safety agency has estimated the accident at Fukushima at level four.
"Clearly, we don't have a nuclear catastrophe," said Lacoste, who is head of France's Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN).
But he added: "We have the feeling that we are at least more than level five and probably at level six."
"I say this after speaking to my Japanese counterparts," said Lacoste, attending a joint press conference with France's Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN).
The April 26, 1986 explosion at the Soviet nuclear power plant in Chernobyl was the world's worst nuclear disaster.
Unleashed by an unauthorised technical experiment, it spewing radioactive dust over swathes of Ukraine, Belarus and western Europe. The death toll ranges from a UN 2005 estimate of 4,000 to tens or even hundreds of thousands, proposed by non-governmental groups.
The March 28 1979 accident at Three Mile Island was a partial reactor meltdown that led to "very small" releases of radioactivity, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
It caused no casualties, but stirred an outcry that blocked further expansion of the US nuclear programme.
© 2011 AFP