Sodium Reactor Experiment

Santa Susana Knolls, United States

Sodium Reactor Experiment

The Sodium Reactor Experiment was a pioneering nuclear power plant built by Atomics International at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory near Simi Valley, California. The reactor operated from 1957 to 1964. On July 12, 1957 the Sodium Reactor Experiment became the first nuclear reactor in the United States to produce electrical power for a commercial power grid by powering the nearby city of Moorpark. In July 1959, the reactor experienced a partial meltdown where 13 of the reactor's 43 fuel elements partially melted, and a controlled release of radioactive gas into the atmosphere occurred. The reactor was repaired and restarted in September 1960. In February 1964, the Sodium Reactor Experiment was in operation for the last time. Removal of the deactivated reactor was completed in 1981. Technical analyses of the 1959 incident have produced contrasting conclusions regarding the types and quantities of radioactive materials released. Members of the neighboring communities have expressed concerns about the possible impacts on their health and environment from the incident. In August 2009, 50 years after the occurrence, the Department of Energy hosted a community workshop to discuss the 1959 incident.

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