by phil - May 15th, 2011 5:47 pm
Hey, remember Fukushima?
Arnie Gundersen is freaking me out! Gundersen is no tin-foil hat guy, he’s the chief engineer of energy consulting company Fairewinds Associates and a former nuclear power industry executive who served as an expert witness in the investigation of the Three Mile Island accident. Gundersen has said that the U.S. nuclear industry and regulators need to reexamine disaster planning and worst-case scenarios, especially in reactors such as Vermont Yankee, which have the same design as the crippled nuclear plant at the center of the 2011 Japanese Fukushima nuclear emergency. Vermont Yankee and similar plants are vulnerable to a similar cascade of events as in Japan.
The Nikkei had fallen down to 8,227 from 10,678 (23%) at the quake and has since recovered 10,017 on May 2nd but was back to 9,648 on Friday (3.6% off the bounce) and the 50 dma has now formed an aptly-named "death cross" below the 200 dma. Japan is already on the hook for $124Bn from the earthquake and will also have to cover TEPCO’s $31Bn (so far) liability as the alternative is let the country’s biggest energy supplier go bankrupt and that would be lights out on their economy.
Warning: Do not watch this video on a full stomach:
This is one of the things holding down the financials as there is no way to know right now, what the real damages are going to be from this ongoing disaster for the insurance companies (and the banks that lend them money). As Gundersen observed on Friday and as is not being reported officially, two other reactors are seriously damaged. A worker at the plant dropped dead on Saturday and Japanese banks and Insurance companies are all suffering with Daiici Life’s net profit down 66% from last year due to the accident.
Accident is a funny word isn’t it? With 435 active plant and 250 more under construction, even if they are 99.9% safe, that would still mean we get an accident like this every year. Hopefully they are 99.99% safe and we only have a major catastrophe every 10 years – wouldn’t that be nice but, so far, that’s not the case as we’ve had about 16 in 50 years with 9 of those considered "major." So accident applies to this situation in the same way…
by ilene - April 15th, 2011 12:03 am
Courtesy of MIKE WHITNEY
Shares plunged across Europe, Asia and the United States on Tuesday as the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant deepened and Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency raised its radiological event scale to its highest level. Conditions at the stricken facility have steadily deteriorated despite the valiant efforts of emergency workers. The station continues to spew lethal amounts of radiation and other toxins into the atmosphere and around the world. A French nuclear group has warned that children and pregnant mothers should protect themselves from the fallout. According to Euractiv:
"The risks associated with iodine-131 contamination in Europe are no longer ‘negligible,’ according to CRIIRAD, a French research body on radioactivity. The NGO is advising pregnant women and infants against ‘risky behavior,’ such as consuming fresh milk or vegetables with large leaves."
The group’s warning underlines the dangers posed by the out-of-control facility which is causing unprecedented damage to earth, sea and sky. But while the disaster continues to grow larger by the day, the government’s only response has been to expand the evacuation zone and try to shape news to minimize the public backlash.
Emergency crews have braved high levels of radiation to bring the plant back under control, but with little success. A number of violent tremors and a second smaller tsunami have made their jobs nearly impossible. Thousands of gallons of radioactive water that was used as coolant has been flushed into the sea threatening marine life and sensitive habitat. The toxic release of radiation now poses an incalculable risk to the battered fishing industry and to fish-stocks around the world. These costs were never factored in when industry executives and politicians decided to exploit an energy source that can cause cancer, pollute the environment for millennia, and bring the world’s third largest economy to its knees.
Raising the alert-rating to its highest level is an admission that a “major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects" has taken place and will likely continue for some time to come. The situation is getting worse by the day. Japan’s government will now insist on the "implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.” In other words, a red alert. The threat to water supplies, food sources, livestock and humans is grave and ongoing. The media’s efforts to protect the nuclear industry by…
by ilene - April 4th, 2011 1:53 pm
Courtesy of TIME
By KRISTA MAHR
Leaked water believed contain radation in a photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Company on April 2.
Sawdust. It’s not the first thing most people would choose to put between themselves and highly contaminated radioactive water. But a mixture of sawdust — ogakuzu in Japanese — with chemicals and shredded newspaper is precisely what nuclear safety authorities and power plant officials turned to in trying to plug a 8-inch crack in a shaft near reactor 2 at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima over the weekend.
Unfortunately, like the concrete they tried before it, the sawdust didn’t work, and as of Monday, the flow of irradiated water into the sea from the shaft continued unabated. “We have not succeeded yet,” Ken Morita, director of the international affairs office at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), acknowledged to TIME on Monday morning. “We will try again today.”
What will they try next? For the past three weeks, that has been the question hovering in the irradiated air above Fukushima, where each passing day seems to bring a new and unprecedented challenge for the ebattled Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to shut down the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant safely.
Since Saturday, when TEPCO announced that workers had detected radioactive water flowing directly into the ocean, the crisis of the hour has been stopping and mitigating the impact of the newly found leak. On Saturday, NISA said it had found seawater about 25 miles south of Fukushima contained twice the normal limits of radioactive iodine. Officials say dye has now been added into the water to be able to trace the movement of leaked radioactive particles, and that workers will be setting up a physical barrier near the plant to try to stop their flow out of the direct area. “There are many important things to do, but in this current situation, many people are focusing on stopping the outflow,” says Morita. “Many options are now under consideration but we have not decided on anything.”
That kind of opacity — whether a symptom of sheer improvisation or a more calculated attempt to cloak the severity of an unsolved problem — has not won TEPCO, or the Japanese authorities, any fans in the international nuclear community. Without more information about what is happening at the crippled plant, nuclear experts outside
by ilene - March 28th, 2011 5:08 pm
Radiation levels that can prove fatal were detected outside reactor buildings at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant for the first time, complicating efforts to contain the worst disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Water in an underground trench outside the No. 2 reactor had levels exceeding 1 sievert an hour, a spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. told reporters in the capital yesterday. Exposure to that dose for 30 minutes would trigger nausea and four hours might lead to death within two months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Preventing the most-contaminated water from leaking into the ground or air is key to containing the spread of radiation beyond the plant. A partial meltdown of fuel rods in the No. 2 reactor probably caused a jump in the readings, Japan’s chief government spokesman said.
“There’s not much good news right now,” said Gennady Pshakin, a former IAEA official based in Obninsk, the site of Russia’s first nuclear power plant. “There’re questions arising on how much fuel will leak out, what isotopes will be carried and how quickly they will settle. It’s becoming less predictable.”
by ilene - March 28th, 2011 2:55 pm
Tokyo Electric Power Co. found plutonium in soil samples taken near the stricken Fukushima Dai- Ichi nuclear plant a week ago, the company said.
The presence of plutonium outside the plant means there’s been degradation of the fuel in at least one of the six reactors, Denis Flory, deputy director general of safety at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said yesterday at a press briefing in Vienna. Tokyo Electric can’t determine which reactor emitted plutonium, Vice President Sakae Muto said in a briefing shown on a webcast.
The contamination “shouldn’t have any effect on human health,” Muto said.
Soil chemistry may determine whether the plutonium can spread from the site, Edwin Lyman, a radiological specialist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said on a conference call. Some compounds formed by plutonium are water soluble, and some aren’t, he said.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said there are “mixed signals” coming from emergency repair efforts at Fukushima. “The situation continues to be very serious,” Amano said in Vienna yesterday.
Keep reading here: Tokyo Electric Finds Plutonium in Soil Near Fukushima Plant – Bloomberg.
by phil - March 15th, 2011 7:49 am
Now THIS is a panic!
Ordinarily, I would be very enthusiastic about buying but we were in an overbought market so we need to be very selective about what we buy. Once again we had a lot of discussion of the Global situation in Member chat and a special 12:21am Alert went out to Members and there was a follow-up at 6:52 this morning and, frankly, we don’t really have better information at 7am than we did at midnight, which seems kind of crazy with all these 24-hour news channels and the web and all. Instead of getting the facts instantly, it seems what we get is information overload where it’s almost impossible to separate facts from rumors.
I want to thank both Zeroxzero and Pentaxon for their excellent analysis of the nuclear situation in Japan yesterday – without their now-obviously accurate observations, we would have probably gone more bullish. We did do some dip buying but generally with well-hedged positions except for the $25KP, where we did take a risk on FAS that will bite us in the ass.
Once again, I apologize that it’s my job to get analytical when talking about a massive human tragedy but we need to step back and assess the situation. I have been suggesting that people, in the very least, text REDCROSS to 90999 on your cell phones to donate $10 to help with the relief efforts in Japan – 250,000 people read me each morning and that’s $2.5M and if you pass this along to 10 friends and so on and so on we can really have some impact so please, Please, PLEASE – when you are about to buy something today – think of something you can do without and instead send $10 so a child in Japan can get fresh water to drink and a blanket to sleep on. Thanks!
What an interesting day for a Fed statement (2:15)! We also have the normal Tuesday Retail Sales Reports, the Empire State Manufacturing Survey, Import/Export Prices, TIC Flows and the NAHB Housing Market Index – all important stuff but all overshadowed by events in Japan. So, what is REAL over there? In the morning alerts we discussed the status of the disaster and we have Members who are clearly better than I am at discerning the facts so we’ll deal with that…
by ilene - March 14th, 2011 4:23 pm
This is so heartbreaking, even without a nuclear meltdown
TAGAJO, Japan (AP) — There are just too many bodies.
Hundreds of dead have washed ashore on Japan’s devastated northeast coast since last week’s earthquake and tsunami. Others were dug out of the debris Monday by firefighters using pickaxes and chain saws.
Funeral homes and crematoriums are overwhelmed, and officials have run out of body bags and coffins.
Compounding the disaster, water levels dropped precipitously inside a Japanese nuclear reactor, twice leaving the uranium fuel rods completely exposed and raising the threat of a meltdown, hours after a hydrogen explosion tore through the building housing a different reactor.
On the economic front, Japan’s stock market plunged over the likelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including big names such as Toyota and Honda.
While the official death toll rose to nearly 1,900, the discovery of the washed-up bodies and other reports of deaths suggest the true number is much higher. In Miyagi, the police chief has estimated 10,000 deaths in his province alone.
by ilene - January 23rd, 2011 8:30 pm
Courtesy of John Mauldin at Thoughts from the Frontline
This week’s letter is a result of two lengthy conversations I had today, which have me in a reflective mode. Plus, I finished the last, final edits of my book, all of which is causing me to mull over the unsustainability of the US fiscal situation. There is a true Endgame here, and it may happen before we are ready.
The first conversation was with Kyle Bass, Richard Howard, and Peter Mauthe, over lunch (more on Peter, who has come to work with me, below). Kyle is the head of Hayman Advisors, a very successful macro hedge fund based here in Dallas. Then I recorded a Conversation with David Rosenberg and Lacy Hunt, which is one of the best we have ever done. Subscribers will be very happy. The new Conversation with George Friedman is now online, too. You can learn more about Conversations with John Mauldin at www.johnmauldin.com/conversations/ . And please comment on this and future letters in the readers’ forums of my new website. Now, to this week’s letter. My goal is to make this one a little shorter than normal. We’ll see how I do.
Kyle, Lacy, and David are typically pushed into the bearish category, but (not surprisingly to me) their forecast for the next few quarters is rather strong. None of us would be surprised by a high-3% number for GDP this quarter, and 4% is not out of the question. And we all see GDP tailing off as the year winds down. Inventory builds begin to slow, and in 2012 the 2% payroll holiday goes away. Plus, as I have written and David has noted, the pressure on state and local spending is getting larger with every passing day.
by ilene - December 21st, 2010 2:44 pm
Pragcap explains why "WE ARE NOT REPEATING THE MISTAKES OF JAPAN….YET".
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
When confronted with a balance sheet recession the math regarding economic growth gets relatively simple – either the government spends in times of below trend private sector spending or the economy contracts. For several years now I have maintained that we are in a balance sheet recession – an unusual recession caused by excessive private sector debt. Although this balance sheet recession created the risk of prolonged weakness I have been quick to dismiss the persistent discussions that compare this to anything close to a second great depression - as I showed in 2009 the comparisons were always ridiculous. The much closer precedent was
Over the last year I have consistently expressed concerns that the USA was going to suffer the same fate as Japan, which consistently scared itself into recession due to austerity measures. At the time, most pundits were comparing us to Greece and attempting to scare us into thinking that the USA was bankrupt, on the verge of hyperinflation and general doom. I wrote several negative articles in 2009 & 2010 berating public officials who said the USA was going bankrupt and that the deficit was at risk of quickly turning us into Greece, Weimar or Zimbabwe. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. The inflationists, defaultistas and other fear mongerers have been wrong in nearly every aspect of their arguments about the US economy.
US government default was never on the table, the bond vigilantes were not just taking a nap and now, with the passage of the most recent stimulus bill it’s likely that we’ve (at least temporarily) sidestepped the economic decline that was likely to accompany a decline in government spending. Richard Koo, however, believes we are repeating the mistakes of our past. In a recent strategy note he said:
“The situation in Europe is no different from that in the US. I therefore have to conclude that the western nations have learned nothing from Japan’s lessons and are likely to repeat its mistakes.”
by ilene - December 2nd, 2010 1:19 pm
Ellen Brown asks and answers, IS QE2 THE ROAD TO ZIMBABWE-STYLE HYPERINFLATION? NOT LIKELY. Her views of the Fed’s activities, debt and the risk of hyperinflation are different than many we’ve been presenting here. Further discussion is welcome. – Ilene
Unlike Zimbabwe, the U.S. can easily get the currency it needs without being beholden to anyone. But wouldn’t that dilute the value of the currency? No.
A month ago, the bond vigilantes were screaming that the Fed’s QE2 would be the first step on the road to Zimbabwe-style hundred trillion dollar notes. Zimbabwe (the former Rhodesia) is the poster example of what can go wrong when a government pays its bills by printing money. Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed in 2008, when its currency hyperinflated to the point that it was trading with the U.S. dollar at an exchange rate of 10 trillion to 1. On November 29, Cullen Roche wrote in the Pragmatic Capitalist:
Back in October the economic buzzwords had become “money printing” and “debt monetization”. . . . [T]he Fed was initiating their policy of QE2 and you’d have been hard pressed to find someone in this country (and around the world for that matter) who wasn’t entirely convinced that the USA was about to send the dollar into some sort of death spiral. QE2 was about to set off a round of inflation that would make Zimbabwe look like a cakewalk. And then something odd happened – the dollar rallied as QE2 set sail and hasn’t looked back since.
What really happened in Zimbabwe? And why does QE2 seem to be making the dollar stronger rather than weaker, as the inflationistas predicted?
Anatomy of a Hyperinflation
Professor Michael Hudson has studied hyperinflation extensively. He maintains that “every hyperinflation in history stems from the foreign exchange markets. It stems from governments trying to throw enough of their currency on the market to pay their foreign debts.”
It is in the foreign exchange markets that a national currency becomes vulnerable to manipulation by speculators.
The Zimbabwe economic crisis dated back to 2001, when the government defaulted on its loans and the IMF refused to make the usual accommodations, including refinancing and loan forgiveness. Zimbabwe’s credit was ruined and it could not get loans elsewhere, so the government resorted to issuing its