Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan's Stock Market is Going Nuclear

In the wake of that country's worst earthquake ever - recently upgraded to a moment magnitude of 9.0 from original estimates as low as the low 8's, then 8.8, then hovering around at 8.9, making it the 5th worst quaker in recorded history - the fallout included the usual victims: architectural damage, fires, power outages, tsunami; what nobody was banking on were implications in Japan's notoriously efficient and technologically advanced nuclear power infrastructure.

Unfortunately, catastrophic damage at the Futsushibidabubabidadudshubi (sic) Nuclear Power reactor near Sendai - a port city around 35N in the Northeastern part of Japan - has led to superheated fuel rods, increased radiation levels (as high as 25-30x normal levels in areas north of Tokyo), and a real shit-show for Tokyo Power Co. Plant workers even had to divert sea-water into the reactors as a last-ditch effort to prevent a worse melt-down, something that I have gathered from several articles over the last couple of days, is considered a very last-ditch effort to cool overheated fuel rods in the event that coolant is either depleted or cannot be accessed. For those of you novices in nuclear physics (morons!), the fuel rods are literally several meter long rods of nuclear material which become superheated due to radiation, then inserted into water to produce steam. The steam is what actually produces energy, not nuclear energy itself. Dumping sea-water into the core to cool them down, I would imagine, "fucks stuff up."

Fears of a Chernobyl-style meltdown (which experts, and yours truly, both feel is not a possible scenario, so don't worry) have translated to a real Chernobyl-style stock market meltdown. The Nissei - Japan's benchmark index, like our DOW or S&P, has shed 11%, up from a 14% sell-off earlier yesterday - making it the 2nd worst sell-off in that index's auspicious history. The 1st worst? Oct 2008, in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis. Of course, major sell-offs in one of the world's biggest economies spreads. The Hang Seng (china), as well as India's indices suffered, and the DOW went down about 187 points. This is not catastrophic by any standards, but, it shows how the world's economy has really integrated and globalized.

In any case, that's just the news I have time to share at 6:30 am before I have to leave for school. I would like anyone reading to offer a moment of silence, of prayer, of thought, whatever your preference, for the potentially tens of thousands of dead in Japan. GOd bless!

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