Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Healing Fukushima's Nuclear Scar

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Healing Fukushima's Nuclear Scar

Article excerpt

Cosmic rays from space may help clean up a nuclear disaster. Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory have devised a method to use cosmic rays to gather detailed information from inside the damaged cores of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, which were heavily damaged in March 2011 by a tsunami.

In a paper in Physical Review Letters, researchers compared two methods for using cosmic-ray radiography to gather images of nuclear material within the core of a reactor similar to Fukushima Daiichi Reactor No. 1. The team found that Los Alamos's scattering method for cosmic-ray radiography was far superior to the traditional transmission method for capturing high-resolution image data of potentially damaged nuclear material.

"Within weeks of the disastrous 2011 tsunami, [we] began investigating use of Los Alamos's muon scattering method to determine whether it could be used to image the location of nuclear materials within the damaged reactors," said Konstantin Borozdin of Los Alamos and lead author of the paper. "Being able to effectively locate damaged portions of a reactor core is a key to effective, efficient cleanup."

Muon radiography (also called cosmic-ray radiography) uses secondary particles generated when cosmic rays collide with upper regions of Earth's atmosphere to create images of the objects that the particles, called muons, penetrate. …

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