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TOKYO (AFP) – Japan is to raise its assessment of the severity of its nuclear emergency to the maximum seven on an international scale, putting it on a par with Chernobyl, reports said Tuesday.

The government currently rates the incident at five, but will boost that to seven, Kyodo and NHK said, citing unnamed sources.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was badly damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan and has been leaking radiation since, despite efforts to cool and stabilise its reactors.