Global Financial Markets Plunge As The World Watches Japan Descend Into A Nuclear Nightmare

ilene's picture

Global Financial Markets Plunge As The World Watches Japan Descend Into A Nuclear Nightmare

Courtesy of Michael Snyder of Economic Collapse

Global financial markets are in turmoil as the situation in Japan continues to deteriorate.  Stock markets are plunging all over the world as investors flock to investments that are considered to be safer.  The 9.0 earthquake and the unprecedented tsunami in Japan would have been more than enough to spook investors and unleash chaos on world financial markets, but now the unfolding nightmare at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility is really starting to cause panic. 

Right now there is a mass exodus out of the city of Tokyo.  But not everyone can leave the city.  There are over 30 million people living in and around Tokyo.  So where in the world could you possibly put 30 million refugees?  Sadly, the truth is that millions of Japanese are going to stay in Tokyo no matter how high the radiation gets.  Let us hope that Japanese authorities can get the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility under control, but the fact that they have resorted to dropping water from helicopters and shooting water cannons at these nuclear reactors is not comforting.

World financial markets are certainly not expressing a lot of confidence right now.  This week alone, $300 billion in U.S. stock values have been wiped out.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost about 2 percent of its total value on Wednesday.  The Nikkei 225 stock index has lost about 10 percent of its total value since the beginning of this crisis.  At one point it was down more than 16 percent, but a gigantic monetary injection from the Bank of Japan has helped to stabilize things at least for now.  There are also some that believe that the Japanese government is now directly buying up stocks to keep them from falling even further.

Stock markets across Europe have been plunging as well.  An article posted on the USA Today website described some of the carnage on Wednesday....

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed down 97.05 points, or 1.7% at 5,598.23 while France’s CAC-40 fell 84.29 points, or 2.2%, to 3,696.56. Germany’s DAX ended 133.82 points, or 2%, lower at 6,513.84.

The financial ripples from this crisis are going to be felt for a long, long time.

In order to rebuild Japan, the Japanese government is somehow going to have to borrow massive amounts of money.  But the Japanese national debt was already projected to reach 228 percent of GDP this year.

The Japanese government has become an incredibly bad credit risk, but lowering their credit rating right now would seem to be in very bad taste.  So far, all three major credit rating agencies are taking a "wait and see" approach when it comes to Japan.

Unfortunately, the crisis in Japan is far from over.

The situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility just seems to grow more dire with each passing day.  Right now, the primary concern is the 40 years of spent fuel rods that are stored throughout the complex.

Ed Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently explained why the pools that store the spent fuel rods are the biggest problem at this point....

"For the time being, the greatest concern is the spent fuel pools because there is a clear pathway for release of radioactivity from the pools into the environment."

The phrase "spent fuel rods" may make it sound like they should no longer be a threat, but the truth is that these fuel rods remain extremely hot and extremely radioactive for years after they are done being used.  For some reason, someone thought that it would be a good idea to store these spent fuel rods in huge pools of water near the top of each of the nuclear reactor buildings at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex.

These spent fuel rod pools are not housed in the same kind of containment vessels that the nuclear reactors are.  Therefore there is a much greater danger that radiation from these spent fuel rods could be released into the surrounding environment.

A recent article by Paul Joseph Watson did a great job of explaining just how big of a problem these spent fuel rods represent....

The Fukushima Daiichi plant has seven pools dedicated to spent fuel rods. These are located at the top of six reactor buildings – or were until explosions and fires ravaged the plant. On the ground level there is a common pool in a separate building that was critically damaged by the tsunami. Each reactor building pool holds 3,450 fuel rod assemblies and the common pool holds 6,291 fuel rod assemblies. Each assembly holds sixty-three fuel rods. In short, the Fukushima Daiichi plant contains over 600,000 spent fuel rods – a massive amount of radiation that will soon be released into the atmosphere.

Each of these 600,000 spent fuel rods is a potential "dirty bomb".

Are you starting to grasp just how serious this all is?

It is absolutely critical that all of these spent fuel rods remain submerged in water.

If the water drops in the spent fuel pools there will be nothing to keep the spent fuel rods cool and they will start to degrade very, very quickly.

Unfortunately, things don't look good right now.  U.S. authorities today expressed their belief that the spent fuel rods in unit 4 are now exposed and that a great deal of radiation is being released.  In fact, Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, stated during Congressional testimony today that he believes that an extremely high level of radiation is being released by exposed spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility at this point....

We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.

It would be hard to understate the courage of those that are working inside the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility right now. They all likely realize that they are all going to die very quickly. They are laying down their lives in an effort to save their countrymen. According to a recent report from CBS News these workers say that they are not afraid to die....

Although communication with the workers inside the nuclear plant is nearly impossible, a CBS News consultant spoke to a Japanese official who made contact with one of the workers inside the control center.

The official said that his friend told him that he was not afraid to die, that that was his job.

Would all of us respond the same way?

Even the media that are reporting on this disaster in Japan are starting to be affected by this radiation.  Lester Holt revealed this morning that his entire crew had tested positive for radiation after returning from an assignment.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is acting as if all of this stuff going on in Japan is no big deal. In fact, as Keith Koffler recently observed, Obama seems to be really enjoying himself in the midst of this crisis....

This morning, as Japan’s nuclear crisis enters a potentially catastrophic phase, we are told that Obama is videotaping his NCAA tournament picks and that we’ll be able to tune into ESPN Wednesday to find out who he likes.

Saturday, he made his 61st outing to the golf course as president, and got back to the White House with just enough time for a quick shower before heading out to party with Washington’s elite journalists at the annual Gridiron Dinner.

If you are curious about Obama's picks for the NCAA tourney, they are posted on the official White House website.

This weekend, the Obamas are headed down to Brazil. According to an article in Forbes, the Obama plan to do a good bit of sightseeing while they are there....

The Obama family will also take in the sights in Rio. A trip to Corcovado mountain, where the Christ the Redeemer statue stands (France gave us Lady Liberty, gave Brazil Jesus) is supposedly on the itinerary. What trip to Rio would be complete without it?

Isn't it great to see Obama acting like a true leader in the midst of one of the greatest moments of crisis that the world has seen since World War 2?

What in the world is Obama possibly thinking?

One thing about a major crisis is that it reveals the true character of those affected by it.  Many are responding to this crisis in Japan with great acts of courage and heroism.

Others are not rising to the occasion.

Let us just hope and pray that the Japanese figure out a way to get the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex under control.  If a "worst case scenario" happens we could soon be facing an unprecedented nuclear nightmare. 


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Predator's picture

Remember the Dirty Dozen?  Don't we have hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers on death row over here? 

steve from virginia's picture

BTW, the Japanese seem to be ignoring the spent fuel except for the helicopter PR stunt for television. Perhaps the radiation risk of the spent fuel is overstated. It's unlikely all the fuel rods are a menace although many of them certainly are.

Most of the energy in the rods has been burned in the making of electricity.

The operators appear to be concentrating instead on cooling the reactor cores which seems to be continuing. No news from unit 1 since Sunday, for instance.

The operators have to keep a lid on the reactors until outside power is brought to the plant, then pumps can start cooling the cores and water can be pumped into the storage tanks.

steve from virginia's picture

Obama is unbeatable because the Republicans cling to outmoded ideology and political strategy.

Obama will win easily in 2012 unless he grows a second head or is discovered to be a North Korean robot (like Hilary).

The GOP is wedded to the 'Southern Strategy' which demonizes blacks as a wedge issue. All Republicans since Nixon have used this approach which fails with Obama for obvious reasons.

In order to beat Obama the GOP would have to come up with a policy platform that is different from the usual Wall Street/monopolist bootlicking that the Dems embrace. They would need a whole new party.

Better get used to Obama b/c you're stuck with him.

Zero Govt's picture

this article is adding panic... expect a (dead cat) bounce in the market today then

Pseudo Anonym's picture

we are told that Obama is videotaping his NCAA tournament picks

what's with these innuendos? Dammit! Hussein al-Obamahim needs to relax so he can remember where his Kenyan birth certificate is. It's not easy to look for birth certificates and trying to remember where you were born, you know?

1fortheroad's picture

The DOW futures are up 95 handles on this great news, WTF

almost_have_a_name's picture

Which nuclear power plant do you work for?

A major one. 

majia's picture

Kyodo news reports radiation levels rising and that efforts to drop water by helicopter and spray by trucks won't be attempted again until Friday???????????

vxpatel's picture

What's the rush? Keep the sheeple scared...

Papaneuf's picture

TEPCO and GE should take their bonuses NOW!

sangell's picture

Watching those helicopters 'piss in the wind' was not very comforting given that each 'pool' holds up to 2000 tons of water and that 1 helicopter sortie can deliver 7.5 tons of water and how much of that makes it into the pool? 5%? 1%?

Who'd have thought the 'riot police' would be the heroes of Fukushima yet their water cannon seem to represent the best hope of actually getting water on target. Yet those trucks hold but 4 tons of water. If they deliver 50% of that on target, and there are 11 such trucks per NHK, its going to take as many as 1000 loads to fill 1 storage pool! How long will that take?


TerraHertz's picture

Moot point, since they gave up and left without reaching the pool at all.

Quite a few Djiins escaping their bottles at the moment.

dearth vader's picture

Two days ago, I saw a picture of three fire boats in the harbor in front of the plant, drowning the place. Don't have a link.

JimboJammer's picture

Jimmy  Carter  would  be  on  top  of  this  mess..

dearth vader's picture

Sure, he would've sealed the place with peanut butter.

JimboJammer's picture

Japan   >>  the  Black  Swan  Event....

>>  the  Trigger  has  been  pulled...

FriendlyAquaponics's picture

Sports, golfing, and whole new meaning to the phrase "fiddling while Rome burns".


Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I am not proud to be an American.

RichardP's picture

... "fiddling while Rome burns" ...

This nuclear problem is in Japan.  A country.  With its own leaders.  Is Rome/Tokyo under the jurisdiction of the President of the U.S. such that he can be charged with deriliction of duty if he fiddles while it burns?  I would think that, by law, such charges could only be made against the leaders of the country responsible for Rome/Tokyo.

Good grief!!!  "Government is the problem" thrown about all over the place.  Interrupted with all this hollering because Obama hasn't taken charge of Tokyo.

There is this thing called logic folks.  The welfare of Japan is the responsibility of its leaders.  The welfare of the U.S. is the responsiblity of its leaders.  Since the problem is in Japan, shouldn't you be criticizing Japan's leaders??

duo's picture

Obama is revered in Japan, maybe not as much as the emperor.  I guess al-Kenya had some credibility and goodwill to waste.  Heck, he doesn't need Japanese votes, and American Idol is in full swing. Fore!

Roomi's picture

Enough beating dead horses. If you listen to competent sources (nuclear scientists rather than journalists and politicians) you'll see that although it's disastrous the probability of a blow-up is dismal. Middle East is overshaded by Japanese events but it's gonna have longer-lasting implications than this passing emergency... and some state bailout action seems to be brewing in Europe, again everyone's silent. I'd expect more posts at ZeroHedge to be ahead of the curve, not behind it.

sangell's picture

Japanese economy is bigger by far than all of OPEC combined. Yes, oil is important but, push come to shove, we can do 'something' to secure or procure it, even if that means parking the 101st Airborne atop the Ghawar oil field. Should radioactive plumes make Tokyo uninhabitable... well there is no 'solution' for that.

johny2's picture

Although communication with the workers inside the nuclear plant is nearly impossible, a CBS News consultant spoke to a Japanese official who made contact with one of the workers inside the control center.


The official said that his friend told him that he was not afraid to die, that that was his job.


In the meantime, USA president Obama is videotaping his NCAA picks.


What a Nobel piece of work from Obama !


infiniti's picture

Bashing Nobama is so 2010.



williambanzai7's picture

Obama will go down as the biggest buffoon ever to be elected President. Considering who he is following, that is no small feat.

css1971's picture

Oh good lord. All the presidents since JFK have been puppets. Do you really think it matters if they play golf or not?

John Law Lives's picture

Pundits believe Obama will be able to raise $1 billion for his re-election campaign.  The GOP had better get behind a candidate who can win or we'll get another 4 years of the buffoon.

Coldfire's picture

The biggest buffoon, so far.

RichardP's picture

I thought the nuclear power plant problem was in Japan.  A country.  With its own leaders.  What does Obama have to do with any of this?  We have been told that, so far, the radiation thing is a non-issue for the U.S.  We should just go about our business.  Obama is providing visual cues for the people of the U.S. to follow (providing leadership through behavior).  For us, it's no big deal.  Go about your business, just like I am.  Even as his underlings are busy carrying out tasks he has assigned them to help out Japan wherever they can.  That's what leaders do, right?  Give directions and delegate authority.  And monitor how their orders and directives are being carried out by others.  In this Twitter and Facebook and e-mail connected world, do you really think we need to be informed through fireside chats from the President?

BT310's picture

Perhaps you could do a post on Bernanke Boxes:

Extra Large Moving Boxes which can serve as temporary shelter.