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Japan Steps Up Attempts to Cool Reactors

CNBC.com
Thursday, 17 Mar 2011 | 7:04 PM ET

This is a transcript of top stories presented by China's CCTV Business Channel as produced by CNBC Asia Pacific.

Good evening, I'm Saijal Patel and you're watching "Asia Market Daily".

Japanese officials began new efforts today to cool reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

TEPCO, the plant operator, meanwhile hopes to restore power at the plant - to more effectively inject water to cool the reactors.

CNBC's Allison Browne has more.

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Japan took unprecedented measures to cool the stricken nuclear facility at Fukushima. Helicopters dumped seawater on to reactor number 3. Officials say they grew concerned about continued smoke and steam emanating from that unit.

(SOT) Japan nuclear agency official:
"The top priority is to cool down the storage pool for spent nuclear fuels for number 3 and number 4 units. So the second priority is to restore power supply."

Overnight comments by EU and US officials caused more nervousness in the markets.

(SOT) Guenther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Energy, Brussels:
"One has to be basically concerned that the whole thing is in God's hand and therefore there can be in the next hours catastrophical developments."

But the EU energy chief's spokesperson later played down his doomsday scenario, saying Oettinger had no specific knowledge on the situation. U.S. energy chief Steven Chu also added to the growing concern, calling the stricken Fukushima plant, a partial meltdown.

(SOT) Steven Chu, U.S. Energy Secretary, Washington D.C.:
"I think the events unfolding in Japan incidents actually appear to be more serious than Three Mile Island. To what extent, we don't really know now."

But the physics Nobel Prize winner also pointed out that a partial meltdown did not mean containment systems had failed. Even before those alarm bells were sounded, those who could, were scrambling to leave Japan.

While some have the luxury of taking the precautionary measure of leaving Japan, it's a very different story for hundreds of thousands of tsunami survivors in Sendai. With little food, water or heat in near-freezing temperatures, they've got bigger problems to deal with.

Allison Brown for CNBC.

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Meanwhile, the U.S. warns the situation is getting "more grim by the hour".

U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, says the nuclear crisis is now becoming "very serious."

(SOT) Thomas Schieffer, U.S. Ambassador to Japan:
"When it comes to civilian nuclear technology, they're the best in the world. They know what they're doing. They have a crisis of unprecedented proportions here. But I'm confident the Japanese will do everything they can to maintain this disaster and of course the United States is there to help. But as I said in the beginning this is growing more grim by the hour and this is something that's going to have a long tail on it because the power that is coming out of that complex is about 25 percent of the power that goes into Tokyo."

While the earthquake and tsunami have caused significant damage, some analysts believe the recovery efforts will actually help Japan beat deflation.

AMP Capital Investors says although the disaster will depress Japan's economy in the short-term, rebuilding will likely boost growth in the second half of this year.

The Aussie fund manager added the crisis is unlikely to derail the global economic recovery.

(SOT) Shane Oliver, Head of Investment Strategy and Chief Economist, AMP Capital Investors: "The history of these sorts of events is that they don't trigger global recessions. You look at the tsunami in Asia in 2004, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, the Kobe earthquake, none of those triggered global recessions so the global recovery will continue."

On the investment front, the focus has shifted from the Japanese market, to the local currency.

Overnight, the Yen surged to it highest level against the U.S. dollar, since World War II.

(SOT) Greg Gibbs, Senior Currency Strategist, RBS:
"Obviously speculators are always the first ones to be driving the currency, so that's not really a surprise. But you know we're back to around the levels which are kind of psychologically crucial, just below 80. I'd presume the risk is now the market will start to sell again from these levels until they see the authorities."

But, Japan's economics Minister Kaoru Yosano says the situation isn't bad enough to warrant joint G7 currency intervention, or government purchases of shares.

G7 finance leaders will have a conference call early tomorrow morning - to discuss the global market reaction to the disaster.

Well, that's the latest "Asia Market Daily", I'm Saijal Patel from CNBC.

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