In Japan, a second blast rocked another nuclear reactor as officials struggle to prevent more serious meltdowns. Cooling remains the critical issue.

A buildup of pressure makes it difficult to inject water into the reactors to cool them down. Gauges are not working because of power outages so it’s impossible to tell how successful those efforts have been.

This prompted one American official to liken the process to “trying to pour water into an inflated balloon,” adding it was “not clear how much water they are getting in, or whether they are covering the cores.”

Radioactive Releases in Japan Could Last Months

Rounding out a pretty grim picture, nuclear experts now suggest Radioactive Releases in Japan Could Last Months

As the scale of Japan’s nuclear crisis begins to come to light, experts in Japan and the United States say the country is now facing a cascade of accumulating problems that suggest that radioactive releases of steam from the crippled plants could go on for weeks or even months.

The emergency flooding of two stricken reactors with seawater and the resulting steam releases are a desperate step intended to avoid a much bigger problem: a full meltdown of the nuclear cores in two reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

So far, Japanese officials have said the melting of the nuclear cores in the two plants is assumed to be “partial,” and the amount of radioactivity measured outside the plants, though twice the level Japan considers safe, has been relatively modest.

But on Monday, Japanese officials reported an explosion at the No. 3 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, which appeared to be similar to a blast on Saturday at the No. 1 reactor. Television images showed gray smoke rising from the facility. NHK reported that the blast occurred when a combination of hydrogen and oxygen ignited. The wall of the building collapsed, and nearby residents were ordered to stay indoors.

Japanese reactor operators now have little choice but to periodically release radioactive steam as part of an emergency cooling process for the fuel of the stricken reactors that may continue for a year or more even after fission has stopped.

That suggests that the tens of thousands of people who have been evacuated may not be able to return to their homes for a considerable period, and that shifts in the wind could blow radioactive materials toward Japanese cities rather than out to sea.

And as one senior official put it, “under the best scenarios, this isn’t going to end anytime soon.”

Nikkei Sharply Lower

In the equity markets, the Nikkei opened lower then quickly plunged before recovering a bit to finish the morning session down 4.53%. In the afternoon session, the Nikkei slipped again to -6.2%.

Nikkei Intraday

Yen Sells Off After Spike Higher

In a huge intraday reversal, the yen initially spiked higher then collapsed giving all the gains back and then some.

click on chart for sharper image

Explaining the Yen’s Movements

What follows is a repeat from an earlier post a few hours ago:

I received several emails from people wondering why the Yen might rise given the Japanese government pledge to create “massive liquidity” as well as increase the deficit with “stimulus” money to repair the damage.

The answer in general terms is events of this type increase the demand for money. In this case, businesses and individuals affected by the earthquake need Yen, not whatever carry trade they may have been in.

There will be a repatriation of Yen for sure, although the magnitude is unknown.

Fundamentally, there is little reason to like the Yen, although significant short-term forces are in play. If the Yen does not rally in the face of increased demand, it could be a very telling signal.

Images and Videos

In case you missed it, please see Shocking Tsunami Footage, Cars and Houses Swept Away Like Corks; Nuclear Reactor Explosion Video; Heartbreaking Aftermath Images

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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