TOKYO (AP) - After raising the crisis level at Japan's crippled nuclear plant to "major accident" status, government officials are urging the public not to panic.
They bumped up the severity level of the crisis from 5 to 7, the highest level on an international scale. That puts it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
But officials say the amount of radiation released at Chernobyl was 10 times greater than what's leaked in Japan.
The operator of the Japanese plant says the chance of releasing more radiation than Chernobyl is "extremely low."
In a national television address today, Japan's prime minister said the situation at the plant is "stabilizing step by step" and there's no reason to panic.
He says the focus should be on recovering from the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear crisis by knocking out the plant's cooling systems.
A 12-mile radius around the plant has been evacuated, and five more communities have been added to the list of places people should avoid.