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UPDATE 2: Japan's News Continues to Worsen: Staggering human losses, nuclear reactor explosions, additional tremors, and new tsunami warnings


A second explosion has occurred this Monday morning, Japanese time, at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.  This first explosion happened Saturday and was believed to have been limited to the outer container.  This newest explosion is due to problems with the cooling processes at Fukushima; it is believed to have been a hydrogen explosion.  There are fears of leaks in the pipe works at the troubled plant and concerns of more severe problems continue.  Reports confirm that the central control room of Unit (reactor) 3 (a plutonium fuel unit), the site of the blast, remains in tact.

The evacuation radius has been expanded to 20km.  Assessments of radiation leaks and the extent of damage, including the possibility of a nuclear meltdown are ongoing at this time and have most recently been confirmed as a possibility by Tokyo Electric Power Co., as reported here by Bloomberg.  Levels of radiation are definitely recorded as being higher near the area at this time.  Unfortunately, other reactors are also under watch for possible, similar problems.

A new tsunami warning caused by an aftershock was recently lifted; it had been warned that a 3meter wave could hit the Fukushima region due to severe aftershocks (midday Monday in Japan).  Ongoing fires, the continued aftershocks and tremors as well as the latest, new tsunami warning are hampering efforts for rescue, reconnaissance, damage assessments, and clean up.  Unfortunately, thousands have now been found to be victims of the disaster.  There are serious fears of these numbers rising to the tens of thousands level, "[Japanese] Police say more than 10,000 people may have lost their lives in one of the worst affected regions, the northern coastal area of Miyagi." (as reported by the BBC here).

Japanese financial markets opened Monday for the first time since the tragedy Friday and we are finally getting reports from the various major Japanese companies and initial news of their respective plans.  Due to the rolling black out schedules and power problems, many major manufacturers, have been announcing a temporary cessation in production.  However, at 3.47p, Japanese time Monday, the AP wires report that the rolling black outs have been temporarily postponed, but calls to reduce electricity use were renewed. These reports are expected to continue to come in, but it is obvious that there are serious human, environmental, economic and business supply chain issues as a result of the devastation.

This report from details some of the pieces of business economic and supply chain news available at this time.  Automotive semi and auto manufacturers in general appear to be among the hardest hit businesses, with most having shut down operations at least through Monday to continue assessments of physical plants, but especially for the well-being of their employees and families.

Semiconductor companies have also been affected more by the power problems than physical damage to plants, "Affected companies included Renesas Electronics Corp., Texas Instruments Inc., Freescale Semiconductor Inc. and ON Semiconductor Corp," according to the same report.  Microcontrollers (especially for automotive and industrial uses) may be among those components most severely impacted, although assessments are still coming in and may take a few days more to complete.  The initial concerns for NAND flash supply are easing however those concerns are now being replaced with microcontroller supply shortage concerns.  Very initial assessments for Toshiba and SanDisk factories are that the distance from the epicenter mean that no damage has happened.  The big question is one of power supply and the time it will take for employees to return to their jobs given the terrible tragedy and human losses facing so many people in Japan.

As BBC reported Monday midday in Japan, "Japan central bank doubles the amount of money it's ploughing into the economy to 15 trillion yen ($183.8bn), according to AP news agency."

We will continue to provide updates as reliable data are compiled.  As we move into this week, more reliable assessments and emergency plans for businesses will become clear.  Once these data are available, we will have a better sense of the impact not only on the human and economic situation within Japan, but also on the wider business and semiconductor supply chain.

Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Sunday, 13 March 2011 22:26 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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