Radioactive substances in underground water
Tokyo Electric Power Company says it has detected radioactive substances in underground water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. TEPCO, operator of the plant, has been checking below-ground water on the advice of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan. The company says radioactive water was detected beneath the ground near the turbine buildings of five of the 6 reactors. The remaining reactor, No. 4, could not be checked because it was blocked by debris. TEPCO says radioactive substances dispersed into the atmosphere may have seeped into the soil through rain and sprayed water. Highly radioactive water has been found in the basement of the turbine buildings and other locations. Damage to nuclear fuel rods in the reactors is believed to have caused the contamination. The company will further analyze underground water and release the result later on Friday. In response to the announcement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters on Friday morning that the government will tighten monitoring of seawater and nearby areas.
Friday, April 01, 2011 11:23 +0900 (JST) [18:23 PDT, Thursday]
Death toll as of Thursday night: 28,000
The death toll from the March 11th quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan rose to 11,532 as of Thursday night. The National Police Agency says 16,441 others are listed as missing, bringing the number of dead or missing to nearly 28,000. The largest number of deaths — 7,012 — have been confirmed in Miyagi Prefecture, along with 3,396 in Iwate and 1,064 in Fukushima. Among those confirmed dead, 9,032 have been identified and 8,720 of the bodies have been returned to families. Police say the number of quake and tsunami victims could continue rising. Officials have been unable to assess the number of missing in some coastal municipalities devastated by the tsunami. Also, search operations are suspended within the 20 kilometer exclusion zone around the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Thursday, March 31, 2011 12:05 +0900 (JST)
Radiation in seawater at new high
Radiation 4,385 times higher than the legal standard has been detected in seawater at a location 330 meters south of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Tokyo Electric Power Company says 180 becquerels per cubic centimeter of radioactive iodine-131 have been detected in seawater sampled on Wednesday afternoon. The figure is far above the 3,355-times level detected on Tuesday. Wednesday’s sampling also revealed cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years, at a level 527 times higher than the legal standard. Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says no fishing is being carried out in waters within 20 kilometers of the plant, and the radiation is likely to be diluted significantly by the time humans take it in through seafood. The agency says it will monitor radiation levels in seawater at points 15 kilometers from the plant, in addition to surveys being carried out by the science ministry at 30-kilometer points.
Thursday, March 31, 2011 12:55 +0900 (JST)
Serious fuel shortage haunts disaster areas
Disaster-hit northeastern Japan still faces acute shortages of gasoline and other fuels due to damaged transport and distribution systems. Wholesaler Showa Shell Sekiyu revealed that as of Wednesday, it has been able to supply just 60 percent of its orders. It says it will increase the number of tankers to meet demand. Meanwhile, 75 percent of 382 gas stations affiliated to the wholesaler in the Tohoku area have resumed business. But the company says operations are still stalled in some cities in Miyagi prefecture, devastated by the March 11th tsunami. Wholesaler, JX Nippon Oil & Energy says 80 percent of its 1200 gas stations are operating, while Idemitsu Kosan says that 60 percent of 460 stations are back in business. Oil wholesalers say efforts to ship fuel to the regions from the Japan sea coast are taking time and shortages will likely continue.
Thursday, March 31, 2011 08:01 +0900 (JST)
IAEA reports high radiation outside exclusion zone
The International Atomic Energy Agency says radiation levels twice as high as its criterion for evacuation were detected in a village 40 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. This is outside the 20 kilometer exclusion zone and the 20-to-30 kilometer alert zone where the Japanese government advises voluntary evacuation. The nuclear watchdog reported the findings at a meeting of its members in Vienna on Wednesday. The IAEA said its experts measured levels of Iodine 131 and Cesium 137 in soil around the plant between March 18th and 26th. It said measurements in Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima plant, was double the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation and that it has advised Japan to carefully assess the situation. In Tokyo on Thursday, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters that the government has been notified by the IAEA of its radiation findings. Edano said the reported radiation levels in Iitate will not have an immediate impact on human health but could be harmful if exposed over a long period of time. He said the government will closely assess the long-term impact and take appropriate action.
Thursday, March 31, 2011 13:29 +0900 (JST)
From the Wall Street Journal
Japan Government: Damage Now $200 billion
The Japanese government said Wednesday that damage from the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami could be more than double the cost of the Kobe earthquake, putting new fiscal pressure on an already debt-strapped government that will likely force the cabinet to abandon self-imposed borrowing limits.
In its first forecast of the cost of the disaster, it said the total cost from damage to houses, factories and public infrastructure such as roads and bridges would likely range from ¥16 trillion ($198 billion) to ¥25 trillion over the next three years. That compares with about ¥10 trillion of damage, not adjusted for price changes, from the Kobe quake. At 1995 exchange rates, the Kobe quake cost about $100 billion. …
Major credit-ratings agencies recently cut their views on Japan’s ability to repay its massive debt, citing the political obstacles that have hindered Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s attempts to get tax-reform legislation passed. Standard & Poor’s lowered its rating to AA- while Moody’s assigned a negative outlook on its rating of Aa2.
BOJ To Buy Reconstruction Bonds
Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa said Friday that the central bank’s purchases of Japanese government bonds should be for supplying funds to financial firms, not for monetizing the government’s debt.
“Government bond purchases should be a method of fund provision,” Mr. Shirakawa told a parliamentary committee. “If they are aimed at fiscal financing, risk premiums may increase and the issuance of government bonds may be affected negatively.”
If the market views that the central bank is helping with the government’s spending, it could lower the credibility of Japan’s sovereign debt and may in turn drive bond yields higher, which means higher issuing costs for the government.