News that radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear power plant was requiring further evacuations, and forcing as many as 140,000 Japanese residents in the area to remain indoors (shelter in place), sent financial markets plummeting.Â The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said early today (March 15, 2011 Â– GMT) that the explosion at Reactor #2 may have damaged the containment vessel.
Concurrently France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) now rates the emergency at six on a seven-point scale of gravity, making it worse than the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island, which rated a five.Â Â“It is clear that we are at level six,” Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of ASN, said.
As the news worsened, and the radiation and ratings of severity climbed, financial markets dipped.Â JapanÂ’s stock market dropped 16 percent in two days, a crushing blow to the Japanese investment community, and a drag on world markets.Â Since the event began, the Dow Jones Average has dropped from around 12,300 to 11,855, a decline of more than 3 percent in three days.Â European markets fared no better, and crude oil prices dropped from as much as $104/bbl to as low as $96/bbl (at least bringing some energy relief at the gasoline pump).
Four reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi plant have suffered explosions, and TEPCO may be held liable for the damage, as the Japanese government has not yet decided whether to classify Friday’s devastating earthquake an “exceptional” natural disaster.Â The financial press is asking whether the escaping radiation will poison the global recovery in the long term.
Meanwhile, as the crisis worsens daily, and residents are told to stay indoors to escape the radiation, the Japanese government is seeing the public lose confidence in its ability to deal with the multiplicity of issues.Â “It’s been awful,Â” said one resident of the government.Â Â“They’ve been giving information far too late. They should have consulted with other countries and experts. They tried too hard to do it all themselves. I think they panicked themselves, and couldn’t think straight. Japan would be better off if we went without politicians for 10 years.”