AUSTIN, Texas—Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory say have devised a method to use cosmic rays to gather detailed information from inside the damaged cores of nuclear reactors damaged by the earthquake in Japan last March.
The reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were heavily damaged by the tsunami that followed the earthquake on March 11, 2011. Researchers at Los Alamos say their scattering method for cosmic-ray radiography shows tremendous promise for pinpointing the exact location of materials within the Fukushima reactor buildings.
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Konstantin Borozdin of Los Alamos’ Subatomic Physics Group is the lead author of a paper on the topic that appears in the journal Physical Review Letters. The paper compares 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.
Los Alamos National Laboratory Muon Radiography team members stand in front of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex during a visit to determine evaluate whether Los Alamos' Scattering Method for cosmic-ray radiography could be used to image the location of nuclear materials within the reactor buildings.
Source: Los Alamos
"As people may recall from previous nuclear reactor accidents, being able to effectively locate damaged portions of a reactor core is a key to effective, efficient cleanup," Borozdin said. "Our paper shows that Los Alamos' scattering method is a superior method for gaining high-quality images of core materials."
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, according to Los Alamos. The process is analogous to an X-ray image, except muons are produced naturally and do not damage the materials they contact, the researchers say.