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Suppresed Video of Japanese Reactor Sodium Leak 341

Posted by kdawson
from the all-watched-over-by-machines-of-loving-grace dept.
James Hardine writes "Following an announcement this week that the infamous Japanese Monju fast-breeder nuclear reactor would be re-opened with a new plutonium core, Wikileaks has released suppressed video footage of the disaster that led to its closure in 1995. The video shows men in silver 'space suits' exploring the reactor in which sodium compounds hang from the air ducts like icicles. 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. Government officials at first played down the extent of damage at the reactor and denied the existence of a videotape showing the sodium spill. The deputy general manager, Shigeo Nishimura, 49, jumped to his death the day after a news conference at which he and other officials revealed the extent of the cover-up. His family is currently suing the government at Japan's High Court."
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Suppresed Video of Japanese Reactor Sodium Leak

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  • by Aurisor (932566) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:19PM (#22201560) Homepage
    Governments can suppress the videos, but they will never stop the first posters.
  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:24PM (#22201594) Journal
    sodium cooled reactors also have a tendancy to produce radioactive isotopes of sodium like Na22 or Na24 from the high levels of neutron radiation exposure, the first produced by knocking a neutron out of Na23 and the second from neutron capture. sodium reacts with water to produce sodium hydroxide [caustic soda] and hydrogen gas, both of which are very dangerous in large quantities for obvious reasons.
    • by Dun Malg (230075) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:41PM (#22201702) Homepage

      sodium cooled reactors also have a tendancy to produce radioactive isotopes of sodium like Na22 or Na24
      Eh. The chemical dangers are more significant. Na-22 isn't particularly radioactive, and the highly radioactive Na-24 has a half-life of only 15 hours.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by X0563511 (793323)

        Na-24 has a half-life of only 15 hours.


        What does Na-24 decay into, and how dangerous is that? How long does that stick around?
        • by schnikies79 (788746) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @03:11PM (#22201874)
          I'm a chemist, but not big into nuclear.

          Na-24 beta decays into Mg-24, which is stable and not dangerous.
          • by Z00L00K (682162)
            So essentially - all is cool if you stay cool and not pour water on it. Oxidized sodium is of course a bigger problem, but not even that is a big issue.

            The big issue here seems to be not the coolant itself - it seems to be a relatively good coolant to use - but the fact that the accident happened. The larger problem that could have occurred would have been a core meltdown instead, and that would have been serious.

            This stresses the fact that nuclear power has it's dangers, and that it's necessary to watc

            • by Fordiman (689627)
              If a coolant leak triggered a switch to manual operations and kept the reactor from actually melting down - well, that speaks to good engineering and shoddy workmanship on the coolant system.
            • by causality (777677) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @06:35PM (#22203184)

              The big issue here seems to be not the coolant itself - it seems to be a relatively good coolant to use - but the fact that the accident happened.


              The big issue here is not that an accident happened -- accidents have a way of doing that from time to time. Things go wrong, the best plans have flaws, people make mistakes. This is true of ... well, all non-trivial human endeavors. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, especially considering that no one in their right mind is going to deny that a nuclear reactor is a complex device with a non-zero risk of something going wrong.

              The big issue here is that the government lied to its people and the fact that they lied was covered up. We need more stories like this of governments around the world because it might just put a dent in the (very dangerous) "government is your friend" mentality that is especially prevalant in the USA.

              Personally I wish the definition of treason were expanded to include "issuing false statements to the people with the intent to deceive when done by any government official" or something to that effect. Meaning, you can make an honest mistake and it's no big deal; deliberately lie to the people and you get removed from office and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Does that sound harsh? Perhaps, but they don't seem to think so when they "make an example" of us, as we have seen with the War on (Some) Drugs and are now seeing with copyright law. Not to mention, almost any concept I have of "harsh" goes out the window when talking of wrongdoing on the part of people who consider themselves our masters.

              This isn't Athens where people were chosen for public office by lottery. These are people who seek power and have worked very hard to get it. What's wrong with giving them a reason to be cautions with how they use it?
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by mpe (36238)
                The big issue here is that the government lied to its people and the fact that they lied was covered up. We need more stories like this of governments around the world because it might just put a dent in the (very dangerous) "government is your friend" mentality that is especially prevalant in the USA.

                It's possibly more "government is your friend and anyone who thinks otherwise is a nutjob conspiracy theorist(tm)".

                Personally I wish the definition of treason were expanded to include "issuing false statem
        • I forgot to add the Mg-24 is the most common magnesium isotope with about 79% abundance.

          So what you think of regular Mg metal is mostly Mg-24.
        • by khallow (566160) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @03:46PM (#22202086)
          The thing to keep in mind is that sodium is so popular as a reactor coolant precisely because it doesn't form a lot of long lived radioactive isotopes when irradiated in a nuclear reactor.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The thing to keep in mind is that sodium is so popular as a reactor coolant precisely because it doesn't form a lot of long lived radioactive isotopes when irradiated in a nuclear reactor.

            Wrong. Sodium does form radioactive isotopes like Na-24 (that has a half-live of 15 hours). Water cooled reactors and CO2 cooled reactors produce shorter half-live isotopes like N-17 (that has a half-life of a couple seconds). Water in a PWR or BWR will become slightly radioactive over time due to stripping slight amounts of cobalt from valve seats (in a form like stellite which is used to make hard valve seats) and from the release of fission products that are not due to the fuel particles but from ura

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by thermopile (571680)
        Although I've never worked on one, I understand that sodium reactors are a real bear to manage. The US Navy tried it once [wikipedia.org] on the USS Seawolf, but opted for plain-old-water. Some of the reasons were:

        1.) The 15 hour half-life of Na-24 prevented immediate entry to the reactor in case of repair. Five half lives (the standard assumed for total decay away) means you're cooling your heels for about three days before you can really do any work. It makes quick response - like the kind Monju would have liked to

    • by flyingsquid (813711) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:45PM (#22201734)
      So they put liquid sodium on the fissile material as a coolant? Man, is there anything the Japanese *won't* put soy sauce on?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2008 @03:09PM (#22201864)
        Rice.

        The Japanese won't put soy sauce on rice.
        • Mod parent up! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2008 @06:27PM (#22203136)
          This is so true! I am in japan now and they go bananas every time I want to put soy sauce on my rice. In Sweden, and other parts of europe I guess, we can put soy sauce on the rice. But here in Japan it is not acceptible - sauce on rice is "dog food", very strange.. :) The most funny thing is that when I try to tell them "I like it better this way", they truly do not understand what I mean. It seems food here is not about eating in a way you like but rather eating in a way that the ancients developed thousands of years ago. Weird people.

          So mod parent funny or informative! :)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by quacking duck (607555)

            This is so true! I am in japan now and they go bananas every time I want to put soy sauce on my rice. In Sweden, and other parts of europe I guess, we can put soy sauce on the rice. But here in Japan it is not acceptible - sauce on rice is "dog food", very strange.. :) The most funny thing is that when I try to tell them "I like it better this way", they truly do not understand what I mean. It seems food here is not about eating in a way you like but rather eating in a way that the ancients developed thousa

    • by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @03:28PM (#22201986)

      sodium cooled reactors also have a tendancy to produce radioactive isotopes of sodium like Na22 or Na24 from the high levels of neutron radiation exposure


      Except that the leak was in the secondary loop, which is never in contact with the core, and hence not radioactive. Had the leak been inside the primary loop you wouldn't have been able to walk up to it with a video camera because there would have been quite a bit of radiation shield and concrete in the way.
    • According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org],

      Fortunately, the leak occurred in the plant's secondary cooling system, so the sodium was not radioactive.

      "Secondary" means that this sodium didn't pass through the reactor core so it didn't become radioactive.

  • Also (Score:5, Funny)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:26PM (#22201606) Homepage
    Wiki leaks server suffers a meltdown after 9.1 MB video gets slashdotted.

    Japanese government doesn't even try to cover it up.
    • Re:Also (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:34PM (#22201658) Homepage Journal
      9.1 MB video via https, mind you.
  • Youtube link (Score:5, Informative)

    by pirodude (54707) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:28PM (#22201622) Homepage
    Uploaded to youtube http://youtube.com/watch?v=pwWQLMmn0tM [youtube.com]
    • Re:Youtube link (Score:5, Informative)

      by pirodude (54707) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:31PM (#22201638) Homepage
      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        Dotsub is currently mirroring the incident in more ways than one - their server is on the verge of meltdown. Expect long loading times.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TubeSteak (669689)
        Here's the subtitle text:

        NPJ Video News No. 3
        Video taken just after the sodium leak accident at Monju, hidden by the PNC - the so-called 2 o'clock video
        Just after the accident, the PNC sent employees to the site to film the leak.
        However, due to the graphic nature of the footage, the PNC hid it
        The PNC explained that they hid it because "it has no value"
        With your own eyes, we want you to judge why the PNC hid the video
        This video was not only hidden at Monju (Fukui Prefecture),
        it was also discovered later that
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by emilper (826945)
          the subtitles are misleading:

          "Sodium mist fills the air" and "The mist gets deeper" -- the camera was out of focus and it was quite dark in there; no "sodium" mist; a second after they filmed the "sodium mist", the "mist" dissapeared. There was not enough light, and the operator had to use a large aperture, so the range at which the objects were in focus was short: move the camera from the back of the shining suit in front to the wall that's 3m away and you get "mist".

          "Footsteps on white sodium" -- not sodi
        • by Mike Morgan (9565) * on Sunday January 27, 2008 @09:00PM (#22204026)
          The subtitle text I saw was:

                  Narrator: In A.D. 2101, war was beginning.
                  Captain: What happen ?
                  Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
                  Operator: We get signal.
                  Captain: What!
                  Operator: Main screen turn on.
                  Captain: It's you!!
                  CATS: How are you gentlemen!!
                  CATS: All your base are belong to us.
                  CATS: You are on the way to destruction.
                  Captain: What you say!!
                  CATS: You have no chance to survive make your time.
                  CATS: Ha Ha Ha Ha ....
                  Operator: Captain!! *
                  Captain: Take off every 'ZIG'!!
                  Captain: You know what you doing.
                  Captain: Move 'ZIG'.
                  Captain: For great justice.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I had a chunk of my ear shot off in a college organic chemistry lab when someone dropped a small piece of sodium in the sink. Those guys were walking through a mist of it,leaving footprints though a powder of it. They have way way more balls then me. If there was water in any of those multitudes of pipes overhead that started leaking, the whole place would have been one large crater.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BlueParrot (965239)

        If there was water in any of those multitudes of pipes overhead that started leaking, the whole place would have been one large crater.

        I give you one chance to guess why the reactor was built to carry the hot sodium far away from the reactor before using the heat from it to boil water for the turbines. Also, the white powder was probably not sodium ( sodium is silver-like in colour ) but rather sodium-oxides produces when the sodium is oxidized in the air.

        Now for the record, had those pipes actually been ca

  • by xC0000005 (715810) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:32PM (#22201646) Homepage
    They'll be certain to address the cause of the leak - videotapes. Whether or not the sodium leak problems will be addressed I can't say, but they'll ban video evidence of problems for sure.
  • Safe Nukes (Score:3, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:35PM (#22201662) Homepage Journal
    See, nuke power is safe, and we always know how bad even these contained breakdowns are.
  • by religious freak (1005821) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:40PM (#22201684)
    (continued title)
    ... except stupid people.
    This SHOULD show that even a "disaster" is minimal by nuclear standards and that safety is about a billion times better than any type of plant, but who knows how this will be interpreted by those who are inclined to panic at what they don't understand.
    • by Big Frank (921537) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:45PM (#22201726) Homepage
      The next generation of nuclear power reactors is on the drawing boards today, and they aren't pressurized liquid sodium.
      • The next generation of nuclear power reactors is on the drawing boards today, and they aren't pressurized liquid sodium.
        They aren't fast-breeder reactors or its sister design the Integral Fast Reactor [wikipedia.org] which has the benefit of producing no long-term radioactive waste (it decays to original levels of radioactivity after only 200 years or so).

        Too bad.
      • 3rd gen are past drawing board. The FBR and IFR are gen 4, and are almost certainly going to happen.
  • what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mofag (709856) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:45PM (#22201724)
    I watched the whole video and I didn't see anything of note. I didn't see the "small mountain of sodium" and I didn't see anyone die. What is it? can anyone explain what I was meant to see please?
    • Re:what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by megaditto (982598) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @02:57PM (#22201800)
      You are not supposed to actually watch that video. You are supposed to just switch to the OMG WTF NUKULAR BAD groupthink.

      Face it, nuclear power is Bad, so the fact that there is a video showing a bunch of kids in hazmat suits re-enacting Blair Witch in their school basement should we all the proof you need. Any grainy image of sewage pipes is a bonus.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by iminplaya (723125)
      Here's the correct link [comedycentral.com]
    • Re:what? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2008 @03:15PM (#22201906)
      At several points in the video you can see a white substance coating things, especially on the underside. This is probably the sodium, meaning that the stuff escaped, despite assurances that this hadn't happened, contradicting earlier statements by the agency. Consequently, it means that there may have been a corrosive effect to a (much) larger part of the facility, meaning that the plant probably was damaged to a much greater extent than has been made public, but also that the consequences of another incident could be far worse.
      • Re:what? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Scorillo47 (752445) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @10:25PM (#22204500)
        Sodium is not white - it is a silverly soft metal - similar in consistency with frozen butter. It can melt easily, and generates sodium vapors when heated. I didn't see sodium in the picture as it probably was alreayd covered with oxyde.

        In fact when heated in air in quantities more than a few grams, sodium will simply burn (with violent flames) generating that white-yellow "smoke" which is a combination of sodium oxyde (Na2O) and sodium peroxyde (Na2O2).

        Note that both sodium oxyde and sodium peroxyde are highly reactive, burning in contact with water, generating sodium hydroxide. Sodium peroxide also reacts violently with flammable organic materials that can easily "give" a hydrogen or hydroxil radical, such as alcohols. In this reaction, it generates more sodium hydroxide. Sodium vaports will slowly react with the oxygen in the air, again generating white sodium oxyde.

        All these compounds will cause severe burns even if you expose the human skin to less than of gram of this stuff. Concentrated sodium hydroxyde simply melts the skin, nails and bones, and sodium oxyde/peroxyde is even more dangerous. In fact - this is how soap was made for centuries - just boil some fat in concentrated sodium hydroxyde and soon you will have some soap.

        It's obvious why these workers have to wear special suits.

        More fun stuff about sodium - check out the famous Sodium Party that Theodore Gray had a while back (or wikipedia)

  • Tomorrow's top story on Slashdot: The Chernobyl meltdown! Followed on Tuesday by breaking Three Mile Island news...

  • from "Horror at Party Beach" and thus needed....sodium! Someone should sing a song about it.
  • by Scareduck (177470) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @03:09PM (#22201860) Homepage Journal
    I remember reading about some fracas with some congressman wanting to install sodium-cooled nuclear reactors on submarines and aircraft carriers. Hyman Rickover, who was running the Navy's nuclear-powered fleet at the time, got hauled in front of a congressional panel; he dropped a small chunk of metallic sodium into some water and asked, following the ensuing fire and explosion, whether there were any questions. The Navy commissioned one sub with a sodium-cooled reactor (the U.S.S. Seawolf), but it was the only one.
    • by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @03:36PM (#22202020)
      Would not have made much difference to be honest. If you get several atmosphere pressure of radioactive water suddenly blowing a hole in your sub and disabling its power system, you would be fairly stuffed as well. The US navy stopped using sodium cooled reactors mainly because they wanted to standardize on one design. Sodium would have a lot of merits, even at sea. In particular, because it doesn't boil at the temperatures used you don't have any pressure in the reactor, so an explosion or leaking of primary coolant is a lot less probable ( and sodium or not, leaking of primary coolant would certainly be a show-stopper for a naval mission ).

      Oh, and btw, the summary is misleading. Sodium is very corrosive to concrete and a lot of other materials, but provided it remains pure ( i.e, doesn't mix with water / air ) it is in fact very non-corrosive to steel, which is one of the reasons why it is used. It is certainly a lot less corrosive than 300 C water with boric acid in it.
    • by E-Lad (1262)
      Yeah, it's psychotic to want sodium cooled naval reactors.

      The Soviets experimented with metal-cooled reactors in their Alpha class submarines. I believe the reactors in those boats employed bismuth, though. The problem with metals is that it was a maintenance nightmare. The ruskies had to build piers with steam plants on them just for the Alphas so the they could dock and shut down their reactors, less the liquid bismuth solidify in the coolant pipes and essentially writing off the entire boat. I do believe
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BlueParrot (965239)
        Actually their main problem was that the plants they built ashore in order to heat the reactors didn't manage to supply enough heat so they ended up running the reactors non-stop without service, and they were not designed for that so they eventually broke under the stress. Also, lead-bismuth and sodium are very different coolants. While sodium reacts explosively with water , lead does not. Lead does however corrode steal quite aggressively while sodium is completely non-corrosive to steel ( unless it is mi
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday January 27, 2008 @04:26PM (#22202418) Homepage

      I remember reading about some fracas with some congressman wanting to install sodium-cooled nuclear reactors on submarines and aircraft carriers. Hyman Rickover, who was running the Navy's nuclear-powered fleet at the time, got hauled in front of a congressional panel; he dropped a small chunk of metallic sodium into some water and asked, following the ensuing fire and explosion, whether there were any questions.

      An urban legend without a shred of truth to it. Rickover in fact was initially in favor of sodium cooled reactors - because, in theory, they would allow plants that were more compact and higher power than water cooled reactors. However, as usually happens, theory and reality failed to jibe. Sodium plants turned out to be heavier, more expensive, more complex, and far more maintenance intensive that water cooled plants.
       
      Ever the pragmatic engineer, Rickover chose to stay with what worked and cancelled the sodium reactor program.
  • If there was any radioactivity in the area being videoed that there is no observable scintillation. Did they use shielded video cameras?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BlueParrot (965239)
      There wasn't any radioactivity in the area. The leak occurred in the secondary loop which is not radioactive. The primary loop is inside quite a bit of shielding so even if there was a leak there you couldn't just walk up to it with a video camera.
  • by BobSixtyFour (967533) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @03:19PM (#22201924)
    They're top-secret nuclear-powered "Gundam" or (Generation Unsubdued Nuclear Drive Assault Module) Mobile Suits!!
  • Worse than what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rie Beam (632299) on Sunday January 27, 2008 @05:47PM (#22202898) Journal
    Dangerous or not, how is this any worse than coal mining, products unearthed by miners who risk their lives for the sake of simply having work? I understand uranium must be mined, as well, but at the same time, the quantity mined is no where near that of coal, simply because you need less uranium to produce the same amount of energy as burning coal.

    Also, let's talk about the environmental effects. My family actually has a history with this, living in West Virginia and finding work in the mines. Ever heard of a process called "strip mining"? Tearing the tops off of mountains and letting mining sediment flow into valleys and adjacent creeks? Nuclear waste is more dangerous pound per pound, but it also can be contained, stored, and most importantly, reprocessed into other nuclear fuels. Coal burns and releases carbon.

    Maybe I'm crazy, but I'm willing to risk the occasional "breeder screwup" every couple of decades for cheaper, more environmentally-friendly fuel that doesn't involve razing land en masse and sending people into under-inspected mines because the product itself is simply so worthless unless produced in bulk.

    Uranium isn't a solution to any major environmental problem, considering that such a novel idea simply doesn't exist right now. But it's still more than coal. It's something I'd be willing to put myself behind if a nuclear plant were proposed near my home.
  • Suicide (Score:3, Funny)

    by Fizzl (209397) <fizzl@[ ]zl.net ['fiz' in gap]> on Sunday January 27, 2008 @11:33PM (#22204854) Homepage Journal

    ...Shigeo Nishimura, 49, jumped to his death...


    I don't get these "suicide to save face" issues.
    I like Benders approach better.
    Bender: I am so embarrassed.. I wish everyone else was dead!

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