Japan is reeling between economic and nuclear crises

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTOBER 23, 2012

The earthquake that shook Japan last year is not the only origin of the shock waves the country is now experiencing. The economic crisis has also shaken the Asian nation. During the first semester of the current fiscal year, the Japanese had a historic fall in exports, which in turn resulted in the largest fiscal deficit.

The financial crisis in the Euro zone and North America, greatly decreased the amount of products that Japan was able to send abroad which together with the costly imports of crude oil gave the island’s economy a double punch right on the face. The explosion and collapse of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima complex not only caused the contamination of most of the food and water on the island, but also meant that Japan had to increase imports of oil to satisfy its energy needs.

In the period from April to September, the trade deficit in what is considered the third world economy, surged 90.1 percent year on year and stood at 3.22 trillion yen (31,200 million euros), the highest since 1979, when the Ministry of Finance began compiling the results of this indicator.

Behind this decline was the drop in exports, a pillar that supports about 40% of Japan’s gross domestic product and has been handicapped primarily by lower demand due to the global economic crisis. Japanese exports fell sharply especially in Europe, where they were down 16.1%, with significant losses in countries like the UK (-26.3%), Italy (-31.4%) and Germany (-11, 7%), and Japanese traditional sectors such as semiconductors, electronic devices or vehicles.

Japan posted its first trade deficit in this period with the European Union, which registered at 92,100 million yen (890 million euros), according to preliminary data released Tuesday. In the case of Spain, in the spotlight because of its debt crisis, Japan closed the fiscal semester with a trade deficit of 59.259 million yen (573 million euros), the result of a fall in exports of 19.3%, while imports increased by 13.7%.

To this scenario, Japan had to add the difficult situation with China, which is Japan’s largest trading partner. The two countries began a  territorial dispute that resulted in the worst bilateral tension in years and is reflected in the decline in demand for Japanese products in the Chinese mainland.

In the first six months of the current fiscal year, exports from Japan to the second largest economy contracted by 8.2% over the same period last year, while imports rose 2%. The consequence was a growing deficit of 1, 53 trillion yen (14,800 million euros). The drop was even more pronounced in the month of September, when the conflict with China escalated and there was a wave of demonstrations against Japan all over China. Some protestors even attacked Japanese-owned companies.

Sales for that month, which originated in Japan, suffered a setback of 14.1%, while imports increased by 3.8% over the same month of 2011. The general decline in Japanese exports was also influenced by the strengthening of the yen, which is seen by many investors as a refuge in times of economic uncertainty. The value of the Yen caused Japanese manufacturers to get a smaller return for their products.

The slowdown in exports stopped Japan’s economic recovery after the setback at the devastating tsunami and nuclear accident in March 2011. Imports from Japan increased between April and September by 2.6% year on year to 35.38 trillion yen (EUR 342.537 million), largely due to an increase of almost 10% on the purchase of energy resources.

Japan used to get around 30% of its power from nuclear plants, but after the Fukushima explosion, and with nearly all of its nuclear plants out of service, the country had to buy more oil to power up its thermal power plants. Crude oil imports increased by 8.3% in the first half of the fiscal year, while purchases of liquefied natural went to 24.3%.

Unfortunately, the crisis is all but ending for Japan. New reports as recent as last week, state that Unit 4 from the Fukushima Nuclear Complex, which currently holds more than 1,500 nuclear fuel rods, is near complete collapse. If the total decimation of the nuclear reactor is completed, the deadly radiation would make it imperative to evacuate the whole island. The amount of radiation could be so serious, that it could make much of the world completely uninhabitable.

As reported on NaturalNews.com:

“According to the Secretary of former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the ground beneath Unit 4 has already sunk by about 31.5 inches since the disaster, and this sinking has taken place unevenly. If the ground continues to sink, which it is expected to, or if another earthquake of even as low as a magnitude six occurs in the region, the entire structure could collapse, which would fully drain the cooling pool and cause a catastrophic meltdown.”

As it turns out, Japan’s economic problems are not necessarily what is attracting the attention of the country and the rest of the world.

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Iran unplugs oil terminal from Internet

ASSOCIATED PRESS | APRIL 23, 2012

Iran has disconnected its oil ministry and its main crude export terminal from the Internet to avoid being attacked by computer malware, a semiofficial news agency reported on Monday.

Mehr said an export terminal in Kharg Island and other oil facilities came under attack from malware and hackers but continued their work as usual.

Some 80 percent of Iran’s daily 2.2 million barrels of crude export goes through the Kharg facility, located off its southern coast.

Iran says that it is involved in a long-running technological war with the United States and Israel. In recent years, Tehran has repeatedly announced it has defused malware in its industrial sector including the highly specialized Stuxnet in 2010, which it said had targeted the country’s nuclear facilities.

This round of cyberattack began Sunday, Mehr quoted Hamdollah Mohammadnejad, deputy oil minister in charge of civil defense, as saying. He said the ministry and some provincial officers were taken offline, and a special headquarters was set up to confront the attacks.

Earlier this year, head of Iran’s civil defense agency Gholam Reza Jalali said the energy sector of the country has been a main target of cyberattacks over the past two years.

Iran has recently announced a series of cyberdefense measures spearheaded by the Revolutionary Guards _ a unit which already runs every key military program in Iran and many industries.

In March, the Guard set up what it claims is a hack-proof communications network for its high-level commanders.

Ultimately, Iran says it wants to set up a completely indigenous Internet that is also aimed at checking a “cultural invasion” by enemies aimed at promoting dissent and undermining the ruling system.

The Stuxnet virus was reported to have disrupted controls of some nuclear centrifuges. Tehran says its scientists neutralized the malware and it only damaged the laptops of some personnel at a nuclear power plant.

Iran is at odds with Israel and the West over its controversial nuclear program. The U.S. and its allies accuse Tehran of wanting to develop weapons technology. Iran denies the claims, saying its program is for peaceful purposes.

Iran has reported other cyberattacks since, including an infection in April 2011 dubbed “Stars” and a spy virus about which little is known but its name, “Doku.”

US Nuclear Expert: No Threat of Nuclear Weapon from Iran

LaRougePac
January 17, 2012

The former dirctor of U.S. programs for production of nuclear materials and components for nuclear weapons, Clinton Bastin, sent an open letter to President Obama the morning of January 13, explaining that there is no weapons threat from Iran’s fully safeguarded nuclear power and research programs. A copy of the letter, which the nuclear scientist also sent to the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, was made available to 21st Century Science & Technology magazine yesterday. It is reproduced below in full.

Bastin, who has served in leading positions in government since the 1950s, laid out the case on Iran in greater detail in an interview with 21st Century Science Nov. 18, 2011. The interview, which devastates the arguments for an Iranian nuclear weapons threat, is available at the 21st Century Science and Technology website.

To: Iran Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee to the United Nations Subject: NUCLEAR IRAN

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE SENT TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA THIS MORNING IS BASED ON EXPERIENCE-BASED KNOWLEDGE

There is no weapon threat from Iran’s important, fully safeguarded nuclear power and research programs.  Sanctions based on false claims of a threat have disrupted Iran’s economy and Iranians’ day to day lives, preclude effective negotiations with Iran to resolve problems and increase world dangers.

The ultimate product of Iran’s gas centrifuge facilities would be highly enriched uranium hexafluoride, a gas that cannot be used to make a weapon. Converting the gas to metal, fabricating components and assembling them with high explosives using dangerous and difficult technology that has never been used in Iran would take many years after a diversion of three tons of low enriched uranium gas from fully safeguarded inventories.  The resulting weapon, if intended for delivery by missile, would have a yield equivalent to that of a kiloton of conventional high explosives.

Drawings of weapons found in Iran by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors are fakes, prepared by dissidents to harm Iran.  Any drawing for a nuclear weapon program would be stored in a top secret vault and never seen by inspectors.

Please share this information with your cabinet, Members of Congress, all Americans, and leaders of other nations, and the United Nations; end sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programs and support strengthening Iran’s economy.

(Clinton Bastin directed U.S. programs for production of nuclear materials and nuclear components for weapons and the successful U.S. nonproliferation initiative with India.  He was a consultant to U.S. national security agencies on proliferation threats in other nations and a leader in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.  He reviewed in detail 1970 U.S. and Iranian plans for nuclear cooperation, and has maintained cognizance of Iran’s plans since that time.)

MR AMBASSADOR, PLEASE SHARE WITH OTHERS AT UN AND OTHERS AS APPROPRIATE, AND LET ME KNOW OF ANY SUGGESTIONS OR COMMENTS.

BEST WISHES!

I WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE HELP FROM YOU AND OTHERS CORRECTING THIS GREAT WRONG.

CLINTON BASTIN

Chemical Engineer/Nuclear Scientist,

U.S. Department of Energy (Retired)

Iran may move its nuclear enrichment plants

Associated Press
December 14, 2011

Iran may move its uranium enrichment facilities to safer locations if this becomes necessary, a senior military commander said Wednesday, reflecting Iran’s worries about a possible military strike against the sites at the center of Tehran’s standoff with the West.

Both the U.S. and Israel have not ruled out a military option against Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making atomic weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying the program is geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes needed to treat cancer patients.

Gholam Reza Jalali, who commands an anti-sabotage unit in the powerful Revolutionary Guard, said the vulnerability of Iran’s nuclear facilities from a possible strike is “already minimal” but that the move still may go through for their better protection.

“If conditions require, we will move (our) uranium enrichment facilities to safer locations,” Jalali was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying.

Iran’s main uranium enrichment site in Natanz in central Iran is built partly underground while the long-secret Fordo facility was built deep inside a mountain as a precaution from aerial attacks. Jalili said the existing infrastructure has already been “a kind of deterrent” against attacks.

“Our vulnerability in the nuclear field is minimal,” Jalali claimed. “If Americans and Israelis were able to attack and harm our nuclear facilities, they would have definitely done so by now.”

Jalali’s unit was set up on an order from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and is tasked with reducing the possibility and minimizing damage from potential military action against Iran.

Natanz is of key concern since it is the country’s main enrichment site and the location of the bulk of its centrifuges _ machines that are used for enriching uranium in a technology that can produce either fuel for power plants or fissile material for a nuclear warhead.

Natanz computers have been the target of a cyber attack in 2009 and experts there have had to battle a powerful computer worm known as Stuxnet, which has the ability to send centrifuges spinning out of control.

Iran acknowledged Stuxnet affected a limited number of centrifuges at Natanz but said its scientists discovered and neutralized the malware before it could cause serious damage.

Jalali did not elaborate on possible sites for the relocation of nuclear facilities but such an effort would be hugely complicated and would require places able to store the technology safely.

In August, Iran announced it was moving some of its centrifuges to Fordo, just north of the holy city of Qom, because that site offered better protection from possible airstrikes but did not later elaborate on the move or say whether the centrifuges came from Natanz.

Natural CO2 Emissions Greater than Human Emissions

Human CO2 emissions are insignificant when compared to what nature emits. Consider that 20 percent of the planet’s flora emits a greater amount of CO2 than all humans put together, by a factor of 14. Twenty percent is the total of flora found on land. The rest, 80 percent, is found in oceans and seas. Current alternative energy technologies are four times more expensive and much less efficient than traditional sources. The “greens” reject nuclear energy even though it is much more efficient than other technologies, including wind and ethanol for transportation. Adoption of alternative energy sources and the fear created by the false anthropogenic global warming threat has made people poorer. And the consensus? It is driven by politics, not science or technological advances.