Fukushima Evacuation Zone To Be Expanded As Political Fallout Joins Radioactive For Kan Cabinet

As had been anticipated for weeks, and frankly is criminally overdue, Japan has announced that it will expand the evacuation zone around Fukushima to areas beyond a 20 km (12.4 mile) radius to include villages and towns that have had more accumulated radiation, Japan's chief cabinet secretary said on Monday. "These regions could accumulate 20 millisieverts or more radiation over a period of a year," Yukio Edano told a news conference, naming Iitate village, 40km from the plant, part of the city of Kawamata and other areas. The news preceded the latest major 6.6 magnitude aftershock which shook buildings in Tokyo and a wide swathe of eastern Japan on Monday evening, knocking out power to 220,000 households and causing a halt to water pumping to cool three damaged reactors at Fukushima. " The epicentre of the latest quake was 88 km (56 miles) east of the plant and stopped power supply for pumping water to cool reactors No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. The aftershock also forced engineers to postpone plans to remove highly contaminated water from a trench at reactor No. 2." Also spotted was the now disgraced TEPCO president who had fallen "sick" early on in the crisis and completely disappeared from view. Per Reuters  "TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu visited the area on Monday for the first time the disaster. He had all but vanished from public view apart from a brief apology shortly after the crisis began and has spent some of the time since in hospital. "I would like to deeply apologise again for causing physical and psychological hardships to people of Fukushima prefecture and near the nuclear plant," said a grim-faced Shimizu. Dressed in a blue work jacket, he bowed his head for a moment of silence with other TEPCO officials at 2:46 p.m. (0546 GMT), exactly a month after the earthquake hit." But the biggest loser is surely Prime Minister Naoto Kan who saw a landslide drubbing in local elections over the weekend, leaving Japan once again leaderless precisely at a time when it needs focused leadership more than ever.

The triple disaster is the worst to hit Japan since World War Two after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a huge tsunami battered its northeast coast, leaving nearly 28,000 dead or missing and rocking the world's third-largest economy.

Concern at Japan's inability contain its nuclear crisis is mounting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan's ruling party suffering embarrassing losses in local elections on Sunday.

Voters vented their anger at the government's handling of the nuclear and humanitarian crisis, with Kan's ruling Democratic Party of Japan losing nearly 70 seats in local elections.

In a statement marking one month since the earthquake, On behalf of the people of Japan, Kan expressed "heartfelt thanks" for assistance and support from 130 nations around the world.

"Japan will certainly repay, through our contributions to the international community, the cordial assistance we have received from around the world," he said.

The unpopular Kan was already under pressure to step down before March 11, but analysts say he is unlikely to be forced out during the crisis, set to drag on for months.

"The great disaster was a double tragedy for Japan. The first tragedy was the catastrophe caused by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear accident. The other misfortune was that the disaster resulted in prolonging Prime Minister Kan's time in office," Sankei newspaper said in an editorial on Monday.

And while Kan's days are numbered, the real question is what happens to BOJ governor Shirakawa: a replacement with a more trigger happy finger would mean the center of QE would promptly move to the far east, once again, as Japan tries monetizing everything once again. Surely this time it will be different.