Foreign Policy Blogs

Japan's disaster affects U.S. policy, economy

Two explosions at Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear power plant have caused the nuclear situation to deteriorate rapidly. The explosions follow Friday’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara referred to as “tembatsu,” divine retribution, for the greed of the Japanese people. (This is the same man I referred to in Sunday’s post. I seriously don’t understand how this idiot keeps getting reelected. Had he been born in the U.S., he would be a deranged Baptist minister from Kansas protesting at soldiers’ funerals.)

The first explosion occurred Tuesday at 6:10 a.m. at reactor No. 2 after several nuclear fuel rods were exposed for several hours following mishaps in the emergency cooling efforts. Within three hours, the amount of radiation at the plant rose to 163 times the previously recorded level. Meanwhile, at reactor No. 3, radiation levels have reached 400 times the annual legal limit.

After this, a fire broke out and was extinguished at reactor No. 4. Prime Minister Naoto Kan then ordered a no-fly zone 30 kilometers around the reactor, and urged the 140,000 citizens in the vicinity to remain indoors to avoid exposure to radiation.

Japan’s nuclear disaster has caused a knee-jerk reaction in Congress. Republicans are coming to the defense of the nuclear power industry, urging a go-slow approach to intervention in the industry, while Democrats, namely Reps Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, are calling for a full-scale congressional investigation into the industry.

The disaster has also affected the economies of Japan and the U.S. Japan’s economic meltdown has caused the yen to strengthen and the dollar to weaken. This may seem like a paradox, as Japan was directly affected, while the U.S. wasn’t. The weakening of the dollar was caused by the disaster’s increased burden to the market, with Japanese markets down 10 percent and the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq down 1.75 percent. After a sharp drop in the yen’s value following the quake, the yen quickly strengthened, and is predicted to continue strengthening. A strong yen is not necessarily good for Japan. While a strong yen and weak dollar will help Japan import emergency supplies cheaply, it will have long-term effects on the Japan’s export-based economy. A weak yen ensures cars and consumer electronics can be produced cheaply at home. Meanwhile, the government conspires with businesses to keep domestic prices artificially high through regulations, which discourages domestic consumption. A strong yen makes it difficult for Japanese exports to compete with more cheaply produced exports, and also causes a loss in the conversion back from dollars to yen. This could further batter Japan’s long-flagging economy.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]