Following an announcement this week that the infamous Japanese Monju fast-breeder nuclear reactor would be reopened, activists in Japan have leaked suppressed video footage of the disaster that lead to its closure in 1995.
The infamous sodium spill, an accident that long ago earned itself a place in the history of nuclear power in Japan, has returned one more time to haunt government and industry officials with images they had hoped they would never see again.
Named after the Buddhist divinity of wisdom, Monju, located in Japan’s Fukui prefecture, is Japan’s only fast-breeder reactor. Unlike conventional reactors, fast-breeder reactors, which “breed” plutonium, use sodium rather than water as a coolant. This type of coolant creates a potentially hazardous situation as sodium is highly corrosive and reacts violently with both water and air.
On December 8th, 1995, 700 kg of molten sodium leaked from the secondary cooling circuit of the Monju reactor, resulting in a fire that made headlines across the country. Although the accident itself did not result in a radiation leak, many argue that the sodium spill itself came very close to detonating Monju, a catastrophe which would have spilled plutonium into the environment.
Following the fire, officials at the government-owned Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (PNC), operators of Monju, first played down the extent of damage at the reactor and denied the existence of a videotape showing the sodium spill.