Japan: Suddenly it seems much worse

There is a now  constant stream of slowly worsening news coming out of Japan.  As H&H linked to in a recent post the expected outcome of the Boiling Water Reactors should be far less worrying than what is being reported. A quick check of the BBC feed shows some chilling details of what is believed to be happening.

0309: Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says: “Now we are talking about levels that can impact human health. I would like all of you to embrace this information calmly. These are readings taken near the area where we believe that the release of radioactive substances is occurring. The further away you get from the power plant or reactor the value should go down”.
0306: Winds over the stricken nuclear plant are blowing slowly towards the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo, Reuters reports.
0303: Radiation is 400 times the annual legal limit near Fukushima’s reactor 3, the Kyodo news agency reports.
0012: Radiation is feared to have leaked after the container vessel was damaged at Fukushima’s reactor 2, the Kyodo news agency is quoting Tokyo Electric Power Company as saying
00:52: Details are now emberging about radiation levels after the blast at Fukushima’s reactor 2 at 0610 local time (2110 GMT Monday). Tokyo Electric officials say that one hour of exposure at the nuclear plant would be equivalent to eight times at what a person might experience naturally during the year.
23:40: Tokyo Electric officials are now holding a news briefing. They say the blast at reactor 2 happened “near the pressure vessel”. They also confirm that some staff at the nuclear power plant are being evacuated.
23:33: More details on the reported blast at Fukushima’s reactor 2. The explosion is feared to have damaged the reactor’s pressure-suppression system, Kyodo says. It adds that “radiation tops legal limit” after the explosion.

For an understanding of what the “container vessel” is please see this page.

It is now understood that the 4th reactor at the fukushima plant is on fire, and that Japan’s PM has advised that nuclear material has leaked out of the plant and has ordered everyone within 20Kms to evacuate and 30km to stay inside their homes.  My family contacted our friends in Japan a few nights ago. The feeling we came away with was that either the Japanese public were not being informed of the extend of the disaster that was unfolding, or the western media was over-hyping the problem.  This is something that is backed up by the comment at 01:59 in that feed.

Ben Slaney, from Asaka City, Saitama, Japan, writes: “Most of the shops are closed and quite a few Japanese people have left Tokyo to stay with relatives further west. Right now it’s very difficult to understand who to trust. While the government wants to minimise panic, the foreign media wants to exaggerate the importance of the latest developments to create a more compelling story. This is leaving many foreign nationals in Japan confused as to who to believe.”

The NY times just released this article.

Japan faced the likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear accident Tuesday morning, as an explosion at the most crippled of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station damaged its crucial steel containment structure, emergency workers were withdrawn from the plant, and much larger emissions of radioactive materials appeared immiment, according to official statements and industry executives informed about the developments.

Japanese Prime Minsiter Naoto Kan made a televised address to the nation at 11 a.m. Tokyo time to discuss the latest developments in the crisis.

The sharp deterioration came after government officials said the containment structure of the No. 2 reactor, the most seriously damaged of three reactors at the Daichi plant, had suffered damage during an explosion shortly after 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

They initially suggested that the damage was limited and that emergency operations aimed at cooling the nuclear fuel at three stricken reactors with seawater would continue. But industry executives said that in fact the situation had spiraled out of control and that all plant workers needed to leave the plant to avoid excessive exposure to radioactive leaks.

If all workers do in fact leave the plant, the nuclear fuel in all three reactors is likely to melt down, which would lead to wholesale releases of radioactive material — by far the largest accident of its kind since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.

Reports of an imminent worsening of the problem came after a frantic day and night of rescue efforts focused largely on the No. 2 reactor. There, a malfunctioning valve prevented workers from manually venting the containment vessel to release pressure and allow fresh seawater to be injected into it. That meant that the extraordinary remedy emergency workers have been using to keep the nuclear fuel from overheating no longer worked.

As a result, the nuclear fuel in that reactor was exposed for many hours, increasing the risk of a breach of the container vessel and a more dangerous emissions of radioactive particles.

There are also and update suggesting that radiation is being detected in other parts of the country with Kyodo news stating that radiation of up to 9 times normal level briefly detected in Kanagawa, which is actually south of Tokyo.

In the financial markets the Nikkei 225 dropping another 6.5% at time of this post with the BOJ doing its best to provide support. However if this disaster continues 6.5% is going to look like a good day.  The Oz market also seems to have suddenly woken up to the issues facing one of its biggest trading partners with a 2% fall.

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  1. Unfortunately it appears the Dr Josef Oehmen’s article “Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors.” may be heading the way of the ‘experts’ that maintained “there is no housing bubble”, “there is no financial crisis”. We can only hope that this is not the case.

    Note that his original piece has been re-homed to the MIT Nuclear Science and Engineering department and modified. Dr Oehmen’s is not a nuclear specialist and his article has received widespread attention. Some sites are claiming that MIT received correspondence questioning the validity and endorsement of the view expressed in the article. Hence its swift relocation?

    In response MIT NS&E have created a site to provide up-to-the-minute monitoring of developments at nuclear facilities in Japan.

    • eep….markets are getting crushed.

      I just happened to be out at lunch when the ASX dropped 100 points….

      this is definite correction territory – next level of support for the ASX200 is 4200-4300 points, which would be way oversold.

      Its oversold as is – I would expect a dead cat bounce in the coming days and another selloff on any further bad news in the week(s) ahead.

      Good times for patient investors only at this stage – plus nimble traders….everybody else stay at home.

  2. How many Japanese will it take to glow in the dark before their Government acknowledges there might be a problem.