Battling meltdowns, nuclear and fiscal, in Japan

March 17, 2011

JAPAN-QUAKE/Check out two special reports out of Tokyo today.

The first examines what has happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant since Friday’s massive quake: “Mistakes, misfortune, meltdown: Japan’s quake” (PDF version here)

 Here’s how one expert sums up the situation:

“They might have been prepared for an earthquake. They might have been prepared for a tsunami. They might have been prepared for a nuclear emergency, but it was unlikely that they were prepared for all three,” said Ellen Vancko, an electric power expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Global Economics correspondent Alan Wheatley looks at the outlook for Japanese debt as the nation rebuilds in his special report: ”Why Japan will avert a fiscal meltdown

Masaru Hamasaki, a senior strategist at Toyota Asset Management in Tokyo, said the severity of the challenge facing Japan should not be underestimated.

The numbers killed in last Friday’s quake centred on Sendai in northeastern Japan will far exceed the 6,400 toll from the 1995 temblor in Kobe.

Many more people have been affected directly and indirectly, for instance by power cuts and the risk of radioactive fallout from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The usually bustling streets of Tokyo were eerily empty this week.

And the economy is even less vigorous than in 1995, smack in the middle of Japan’s so-called Lost Decade.

“But out of this crisis affecting a large part of the population, a sense of ‘public morality’ is already building up,” Hamasaki said. “If the country’s leaders can harness this spirit in the long term, then I’m sure Japan will move in a positive direction.”

For live updates of developments in Japan, click here.

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