Published: Wednesday, 28 Aug 2013 | 6:59 AM ET
By: Holly Ellyatt | Assistant Producer, CNBC.com
As the world watches Syria amid concerns of a U.S.-led military intervention, halfway across the globe a nuclear disaster could be unfolding with the potential for years of economic and social repercussions in Japan.
On Wednesday, nuclear regulators in Japan officially raised the severity rating of the latest radioactive water leak at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, which was severely affected by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The situation has now been classified at Level 3 on an international scale for radiological releases, making the leak a "serious incident."
U.K.-based nuclear energy expert Antony Froggatt told CNBC that the problem at the Fukushima plant was growing – and could haunt Japan’s nuclear regulators for a number of years.
"There are many problems ahead and you can look to Chernobyl that happened in 1996 and see that they’re still trying to deal with containing radioactivity around the site," said Froggatt, who is a senior research fellow at Chatham House think tank.
Level 3 ratings from regulators were rare, he said, adding that if the problem deteriorated, the authorities may need to appeal for international assistance.
Following the plant’s meltdown in 2011, the situation was classified at Level 7, the highest rating on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.
"What we’re seeing now is that the problems at the plant haven’t been resolved over the last two years," Froggatt, who contributes to the closely watched "World Nuclear Industry Status Report," said.
"There is the growing problem of waste water… they’ve been trying to stop this and now the regulators seem to have fully admitted that there is a problem."