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Posts Tagged ‘Japan earthquake

Japan Fukushima update: rethink of national energy policy

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from Casey Research
Posted originally May 12, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi disaster prompts closure of another plant, rethink of national energy policy

As workers continue to battle with the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, more impacts from the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl are starting to arise. The latest impact will hit car manufacturers, with plants in central Japan hit the hardest: power firm Chubu Electric has agreed to shut its Hamaoka Nuclear Plant until it can build better defenses against the kind of massive earthquake and tsunami that hit on March 11, and Hamaoka provides power to at least 15 auto plants.

Now analysts are wondering if the power disruptions – and more generally the lack of clarity around Japan’s future energy policy – might be the final pressure that drives Japan’s famous car makers towards more overseas manufacturing.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked Chubu to shut down all of the reactors at Hamaoka, citing studies that say there is a 87% chance the area will be hit by a earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or greater in the next 30 years. That information raised questions about why the plant was built near a major fault line in the first place. Chubu complied with the request within days. The utility said it will look to buy more liquefied natural gas and oil to make up for lost capacity. The company also said it will make efforts to procure energy from another utility in western Japan to try to avoid disruptions in its power supply.

That supply powers half of the 18 Toyota plants in central Japan and all four of Suzuki Motor’s domestic car and motorcycle facilities. The coverage area also includes plants owned by Honda Motor and Mitsubishi Motors, as well as Sharp’s LCD factory and Toshiba’s semiconductor plant.

Japan’s car makers are already hurting from the March 11 disaster. Toyota and Honda have been forced to operate at about half of their planned levels because of a shortage of components. They had forecast a return to normal levels by the end of the year, but now power shortages will make it even harder to recover. More generally, the power issue could give car companies another reason – in addition to a strong yen and cheaper labor abroad – to shrink production volumes in Japan.

The government stressed that Hamaoka was a special case because of its location, and reiterated that other plants would not be singled out for closure. Analysts were less than convinced, however; many pointed out that the request to Chubu came from a government that still had not clarified its energy policy in the wake of the nuclear disaster. Chubu can switch to LNG- and oil-derived power in the short term, but those power sources cost more and increase emissions. In the longer term, no one knows what the government wants to do. And the longer that uncertainty about power supplies continues, the more companies will start thinking about manufacturing overseas.

As if in response to these growing calls for energy policy certainty, on Tuesday the prime minister said Japan will scrap a plan calling for increasing use of nuclear power. Prior to the disaster, Kan’s government planned to increase the country’s reliance on nuclear power from 30% to 50%. Kan said the country needs to “start from scratch” on its long-term energy policy.

Over at Fukushima Daiichi, workers opened the doors of the damaged building around Reactor No.1 on Sunday and, after letting the building air out for eight hours, entered the building for the first time. TEPCO said the airing out released little radiation because an air filtration system installed last week had already removed most of the dangerous particles. The next step is to start replacing the reactor’s cooling systems.

A few days ago, about 100 evacuees were allowed to visit their homes in the exclusion zone around the plant for the first time since the earthquake. Nine towns and villages, usually home to tens of thousands, are subject to the no-go zone order and TEPCO says that, even in a best-case scenario, residents will be not able to return for another six to nine months.

What they’re covering up at Fukushima

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by Hirose Takashi
Posted originally March 22, 2011
http://www.counterpunch.org/

Introduced by Douglas Lummis

HIROSE TAKASHI HAS WRITTEN A WHOLE SHELF FULL OF BOOKS, MOSTLY ON THE NUCLEAR POWER industry and the military-industrial complex. Probably his best known book is Nuclear Power Plants for Tokyo in which he took the logic of the nuke promoters to its logical conclusion: if you are so sure that they’re safe, why not build them in the center of the city, instead of hundreds of miles away where you lose half the electricity in the wires?

He did the TV interview that is partly translated below somewhat against his present impulses. I talked to him on the telephone today (March 22 , 2011) and he told me that while it made sense to oppose nuclear power back then, now that the disaster has begun he would just as soon remain silent, but the lies they are telling on the radio and TV are so gross that he cannot remain silent.

I have translated only about the first third of the interview (you can see the whole thing in Japanese on YouTube), the part that pertains particularly to what is happening at the Fukushima plants. In the latter part he talked about how dangerous radiation is in general, and also about the continuing danger of earthquakes.

After reading his account, you will wonder, why do they keep on sprinkling water on the reactors, rather than accept the sarcophagus solution  [ie., entombing the reactors in concrete. Editors.] I think there are a couple of answers. One, those reactors were expensive, and they just can’t bear the idea of that huge a financial loss. But more importantly, accepting the sarcophagus solution means admitting that they were wrong, and that they couldn’t fix the things. On the one hand that’s too much guilt for a human being to bear. On the other, it means the defeat of the nuclear energy idea, an idea they hold to with almost religious devotion. And it means not just the loss of those six (or ten) reactors, it means shutting down all the others as well, a financial catastrophe. If they can only get them cooled down and running again they can say, See, nuclear power isn’t so dangerous after all. Fukushima is a drama with the whole world watching, that can end in the defeat or (in their frail, I think groundless, hope) victory for the nuclear industry. Hirose’s account can help us to understand what the drama is about. –Douglas Lummis

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“You get 3,500,000 times the normal dose. You call that safe? And what media have reported this? None!”

Hirose Takashi: The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident and the State of the Media
Broadcast by Asahi NewStar, 17 March, 20:00

Interviewers: Yoh Sen’ei and Maeda Mari

Yoh: Today many people saw water being sprayed on the reactors from the air and from the ground, but is this effective?

Hirose: If you want to cool a reactor down with water, you have to circulate the water inside and carry the heat away, otherwise it has no meaning. So the only solution is to reconnect the electricity. Otherwise it’s like pouring water on lava.

Yoh: Reconnect the electricity – that’s to restart the cooling system?

Hirose:  Yes.  The accident was caused by the fact that the tsunami flooded the emergency generators and carried away their fuel tanks.  If that isn’t fixed, there’s no way to recover from this accident.

Yoh: Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company, owner/operator of the nuclear plants] says they expect to bring in a high voltage line this evening.

Hirose: Yes, there’s a little bit of hope there. But what’s worrisome is that a nuclear reactor is not like what the schematic pictures show (shows a graphic picture of a reactor, like those used on TV).  This is just a cartoon.  Here’s what it looks like underneath a reactor container (shows a photograph). This is the butt end of the reactor. Take a look. It’s a forest of switch levers and wires and pipes. On television these pseudo-scholars come on and give us simple explanations, but they know nothing, those college professors. Only the engineers know. This is where water has been poured in. This maze of pipes is enough to make you dizzy. Its structure is too wildly complex for us to understand. For a week now they have been pouring water through there. And it’s salt water, right?  You pour salt water on a hot kiln and what do you think happens? You get salt. The salt will get into all these valves and cause them to freeze. They won’t move. This will be happening everywhere.  So I can’t believe that it’s just a simple matter of you reconnecting the electricity and the water will begin to circulate. I think any engineer with a little imagination can understand this. You take a system as unbelievably complex as this and then actually dump water on it from a helicopter – maybe they have some idea of how this could work, but I can’t understand it.

Yoh: It will take 1300 tons of water to fill the pools that contain the spent fuel rods in reactors 3 and 4. This morning 30 tons. Then the Self Defense Forces are to hose in another 30 tons from five trucks. That’s nowhere near enough, they have to keep it up. Is this squirting of water from hoses going to change the situation?

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Land of the Setting Sun

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by Jim Quinn
Originally posted March 28, 2011
(Apologies to Mr Quinn, his article is slightly condensed here.)

THE LINEAR THINKERS THAT DOMINATE THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA and the halls of power in Washington D.C. are assessing the series of disasters in Japan without connecting the dots of history. Their ideological desire to convince people that things will go back to normal in short order flies in the face of the facts.

It makes me wonder whether these supposed thought leaders lack true intelligence or whether their ideological biases convince them to lie. At the end of the day it comes down to wealth, power and control. If those in power were to tell the truth about the true consequences of demographics, debt, disasters, and devaluation, their subjects would revolt and toss them out. Before the multiple disasters struck Japan last week, the sun was already setting on this empire. The recent tragic events will accelerate that descent.

Japanese Beetle Meet Windshield

Smart financial minds have been expecting a Japanese economic tsunami for the last few years. John Mauldin described Japan’s predicament in early 2010:

“I refer to Japan as a bug in search of a windshield. I am not so sure about the timing, however, as the economic and fiscal insanity that is Japan may be able to go on for longer than many think possible. But to me it is not a question of whether there will be a crisis, but when there will be one. This year? 2011? 2012? I doubt Japan makes it to the middle of the decade with a very serious and sad day of reckoning.”

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard expected a 9.0 debt earthquake to strike Japan in 2010:

“Weak sovereigns will buckle. The shocker will be Japan, our Weimar-in-waiting. This is the year when Tokyo finds it can no longer borrow at 1% from a captive bond market, and when it must foot the bill for all those fiscal packages that seemed such a good idea at the time. Every auction of JGBs will be a news event as the public debt punches above 225% of GDP. Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii will become as familiar as a rock star.

Once the dam breaks, debt service costs will tear the budget to pieces. The Bank of Japan will pull the emergency lever on QE. The country will flip from deflation to incipient hyperinflation. The yen will fall out of bed, outdoing China’s yuan in the beggar-thy-neighbor race to the bottom.”

Mr. Pritchard was either wrong or early, depending upon your point of view.

Debt & Demographics

Japan is a one trick pony that just broke two legs and is waiting to be put down. They have experienced a two decade long recession. Their stock market is still 70% below its 1990 peak. They have no natural resources. They allow virtually no immigration. And their population is in a death spiral. The one and only thing they have going for them is their phenomenal ability to manufacture high quality products and export them to the rest of the world. The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan severely damaged their ‘just in time’ manufacturing machine. A surging yen would destroy their export machine by making their products more expensive. Hundreds of high tech Toyota, Honda, and Sony factories are shut. Four hundred miles of ports and harbors have been wiped out. There are rolling blackouts, with one million households without electricity. Over 500,000 people are still homeless.

The short-term impact of this disaster will push Japan into recession. The rebuilding efforts over the coming years will create a positive GDP figure, but will not do anything to benefit Japan over the long haul. The billions designated to rebuild will be money not invested in a more beneficial manner. The linear thinkers conclude that over the long-term Japan will be OK. These people are ignoring the double D’s – Debt and Demographics. When Japan entered its two decades of recession and experienced the Kobe earthquake in 1995, its government debt stood at 52% of GDP. Today it stands at 225% of GDP.

Twenty one years ago, the Japanese population was still relatively young, with only 12% of the population over 65 years old. The population of Japan peaked in 2004 and now is in relentless decline. Over 23% of the population is over 65 and the median age is 45 years old. For comparison, the median age in the U.S. is 37 years old, with only 13% over 65. The population of Japan is aging rapidly and will decline by 4.4 million, or 3.5% in the next ten years.

The question I pose to the mainstream thinkers is, “How can a country with a rapidly aging population and nearly one quarter of its population over 65 years old generate the necessary dynamic enthusiasm for rebuilding a shattered country?” Youthful enthusiasm and hope for a brighter future is essential to any enormous rebuilding effort. Japan does not have it in them. News reports already indicate a lethargic and seemingly insufficient response by emergency workers. The devastation seems to have overwhelmed this aging country. The psychological impact of this type of natural disaster will likely have two phases. Psychology professor Magda Osman describes the expected human response:

“After a disaster, typically small communities become incredibly co-operative and pull together to help each other and start the rebuilding process. There’s an immediate response where people start to take control of the situation, begin to deal with it and assess and respond to the devastation around them. The problem is that we aren’t very good at calculating the long-term effects of disasters. After about two months of re-building and cleaning up we tend to experience a second major slump when we realize the full severity of the situation in the longer term. This is what we need to be wary of because this triggers severe depression.”

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Japan considers extending evacuation radius after IAEA finds excessive radiation 40 km away from Fukushima

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by Tyler Durden
Posted originally Zero Hedge, March 30, 2011

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is quickly outstaying its Japanese welcome by disclosing actual facts about the radioactive fallout around the power plant, has just announced that it has found excessive radioactivity in a village 40 km from Fukushima.

While the news will not be a surprise to anyone watching the grand lie unfold over the past three weeks, it may hopefully force the Japanese government to finally relent and extend the evacuation perimeter from the existing 20 km, thereby actually preventing the needless loss of life in the long run.

From Reuters:
“Radiation measured at a village 40 km from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant exceeded a criterion for evacuation”, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday, the latest sign of widening consequences from the crisis. Criticized for weak leadership during Japan’s worst crisis since World War Two, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said he is considering enlarging the evacuation area to force 130,000 people to move, in addition to 70,000 already displaced.

“The first assessment indicates that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded in Iitate village,” Denis Flory, a deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said. “We have advised (Japan) to carefully assess the situation and they have indicated that it is already under assessment,” he told a news conference.” Hopefully our Japanese readers who have been following our coverage of this tragedy, which many have at times called “hysteric” even if always based on facts, have already evacuated long ago.

Ultimately, it is one thing for the government to lie with just the Russell 2000’s closing level being at stake. It is something totally different when people’s mutagenic skills and/or life expectancy is at stake. When this is all said and done, Kan will likely be forced into exile for his tragic botching of an operation whose only downside to disclosing the truth would have been a few hundred points in the Nikkei/S&P. Well, those losses will still come eventually, but at least thousands of lives would not have been put needlessly at risk in the meantime.

More from Reuters:
Greenpeace this week said it had confirmed radiation levels in this village northwest of the plant high enough to evacuate. But Japan’s nuclear safety agency on Monday rebuffed a call by the environmental group to widen the evacuation zone. The IAEA also said it had been told by Singapore that some cabbages imported from Japan contained radioactive iodine above the levels recommended for international trade. “Some samples were over the Codex Alimentarius values recommended for international trade,” said Flory.

David Byron, a U.N. food agency official seconded to the IAEA, said the recommended level was 100 becquerels per kg and that one of the samples in Singapore was up to nine times above that. “Other samples were also over that level,” he said, although not as much. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said the situation at the Fukushima plant remained very serious despite increased efforts by authorities to get it under control.

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Has Wall Street no decency?

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by Rick Ackerman
Posted originally March 28, 2011

Watching the Dow Industrial Average cavort in the thin air above 12000 while the world goes to hell, we’re reminded of the famous exchange between Senator Joseph McCarthy and U.S. Army counsel Joseph Welch during the Army-McCarthy hearings:  “Have you no decency, sir?” asked Welch after the Commie-baiting McCarthy had smeared a junior lawyer from Welch’s firm with a ruinous accusation.

We might ask the same question of the decision makers who in recent weeks have been driving stocks higher no matter how grave the news or world-shaking the event: Have you, the Masters of the Universe, no decency? Apparently not — at least none capable of registering even a mote of doubt or concern about what is going on in the real world. Granted, there was a fleeting loss of confidence in the literal wake of March 11’s epic earthquake and tsunami. Some investors wondered how global manufacturers would fare with their most important supplier of just-in-time parts out of commission. Others grew nervous that Japan’s very financial stability was in jeopardy. But it didn’t take long before such anxious speculation gave way to the sunny notion that it would take vast quantities of capital investment to rebuild Japan. Ka-ching!

That was more than a week ago. Since then, Japan’s predicament has grown increasingly menacing. Radioactive waste is spilling into the sea, a reactor containment vessel appears to have cracked, and there is no longer even a timetable for fixing the problem. Will Geiger counters in L.A. have to go crazy for Wall Street to at least act as though all of this matters?

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Jim Berkland: Major California earthquake predicted for March 19th – 26th

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from politicsandfinance.blogspot.com
Originally posted March 16, 2011

 

For an enlarged image of the map (left), click on: http://www.seismic.ca.gov/pub/shaking_18x23.pdf

 

Neil Cavuto interview with former USGS geologist Jim Berkland who claims a 75% success rate in earthquake prediction:

Watching Fox in order to stay current on the nuclear events unfolding in Japan, I listened to a Cavuto interview with Jim Berkland. Berkland is known as the man who predicted the World Series earthquake four days before it hit back in 1989. He is now predicting a major seismic event to occur in California sometime between the dates of the 19th and 26th of this month.

Eccentric? Maybe! But while past performance is no guarantee of future results, his is a voice that should be taken somewhat seriously.

Jim Berkland in his own words

“… Mainstream scientists generally try to debunk various aspects of my earthquake predictions or to ridicule me personally, with epithets such as crackpot or clown. My response is to question their own records in earthquake prediction, and to point out that the main action of a stream is not near the center, but closer to the edge. Near the fringes, with eddies and cross-currents, erosion and deposition are more effective, sometimes leading to changes in the course of the stream. Conformity does not lead to invention. Scientific progress is not achieved by majority vote. Following my pilgrimage to Gizeh [Egypt] with John Anthony West, I discovered the meaning of life: To seek your purpose and strive to achieve it. Anything less is a waste of existence. I am fortunate to have found that my purpose is to de-mystify earthquakes for the public so that meaningful preparations take the place of fatalistic attitudes, that often prove fatal.

The experts of High Science state that earthquake prediction is currently a scientific impossibility. I maintain that the topic is too important to leave to the experts and I continue to do the impossible with a better than 75% batting average, which is more than 300% greater than chance…”

Cavuto/Berkland interview excerpt from Fox video (above)

BERKLAND: Well, if it was, one in the northwest, in the Cascadia Trench, like we had in 1700, that would be a nine magnitude quake. I’m not predicting that. But I’m saying we just had a massive fish kill. Maybe a million fish died in Redondo Beach. They had a massive fish sweep in Mexico. We just had a bunch of whales come in close to San Diego.

CAVUTO: What does that presage? When you have events like that, what does that generally mean? What’s going on in the waters?

BERKLAND: Changes – changes in the magnetic field that often precede larger earthquakes. Most animals have the mineral magnetite in their bodies, including people. But it enables homing pigeons to get home. Just before big quakes, they often can’t get home. There is the delay factor. So we look for those kinds of things.

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Morning Update/Market Thread March 14 – OMG Edition…

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by Nathan A. Martin
Originally posted Monday, March 14, 2011

Good Morning,
Which disaster should we talk about first, the earthquake, the tsunami, our markets, or our economy?

Let’s start with the obvious stuff. To me the reaction in our futures markets is simply too muted to match reality. It is quite obvious to me that our markets are complete nonsense, taken over by computers fueled by money that’s simply made on other computers. None of it is real, the market I see more closely resembles a marketing tool in the hands of the “Fed.”

From my perspective, “investing” in THEIR markets at this juncture is as riskless as a stroll through the Fukushima Reactor #3 parking lot… you know, the one with the plutonium fuel.

The U.S. Navy has detected radiation up to 100 miles away, and they are repositioning their ships to avoid the fallout. Seventeen sailors who participated in rescue operations have tested positive for nuclear contamination.

The effects of the earthquake and tsunami are huge, both in terms of life and money. But the effects of the damage done to the nuclear energy industry will be felt for decades to come. America has not built a nuclear power plant since after the Three Mile Island accident – the last reactor was completed in 1974. And yet, the United States still gets nearly 20% of its electricity from nuclear plants. What will be the future with these events? I see this as further pressuring organic based fuels, although the initial reaction has the oil markets lower. Again, the markets are not real, so I would not pass judgment on any short term move.

And as I predicted, these events are equating to even more money printing as the Japanese central bankers jumped right in to provide 15 Trillion Yen stimulus and have said that they will DOUBLE the amount of debt they are buying up (which equals more printing). The numbers in Japan are momentous and getting larger by the day.

Our own “FED” meets today in their regular FOMC meeting and will make their indebt you further announcement tomorrow. I think these events in Japan equal even more market manipulation and more money printing here and around the rest of the debt saturated globe. They can’t stop, and the numbers will only get bigger. These disasters then, are a triggering/ accelerating event.

And what I’m seeing of the natural world is that we are not living in an era that’s as calm as the recent past for the human experience. We have to not be afraid to connect the dots: large increase in solar activity, large increase in volcanic activity, bigger and stronger storms in a more energized atmosphere, strange and unexplained animal deaths/behaviors, large increase in earthquake activity with stronger earthquakes and more damaging results.

Take the Japanese reactors for example, they were designed 40 years ago and benchmarked the largest earthquakes in recorded history up to then – and then they added a safety margin and built them to 7.9 earthquake standards. Boom, a 9.0 (revised up from 8.9) comes along. And this follows on the heals of TWO devastating earthquakes in New Zealand, one in Haiti, one in Peru, and not too long ago one of the largest ever recorded, a 9.2 that struck Indonesia.

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