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Particle Physics To Aid Nuclear Cleanup

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the baby-steps-to-a-tricorder dept.

Science 35

mdsolar sends this report from Symmetry Magazine: Cosmic rays can help scientists do something no one else can: safely image the interior of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. ... [M]uon tomography is similar to taking an X-ray, only it uses naturally produced muons. These particles don't damage the imaged materials and, because they already stream through everything on Earth, they can be used to image even the most sensitive objects. Better yet, a huge amount of shielding is needed to stop muons from passing through an object, making it nearly impossible to hide from muon tomography. ... By determining how muons scatter as they interact with electrons and nuclei within the item, the team's software creates a three-dimensional picture of what's inside. ... To prove the technology, the Los Alamos team shipped a demo detector system to a small, working nuclear reactor in a Toshiba facility in Kawasaki, Japan. There, they placed one detector on either side of the reactor core. "When we analyzed our data we discovered that in addition to the fuel in the reactor core, they had put a few fuel bundles off to the side that we didn't know about," says Morris. "They were really impressed that not only could we image the core, but that we also found those bundles."

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Image series (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 2 months ago | (#47787215)

Impressive series of images in the article showing how they get clear data after about four weeks.

Re:Image series (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 months ago | (#47787243)

That's just a model of Camelot.

Re:Image series (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47788273)

Don't you mean Castlegard?

Found additional fuel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787251)

Uhhhh... did they just admit to not keeping track of where they've been keeping nuclear fuel rods?

Re:Found additional fuel (1)

Tanuki64 (989726) | about 2 months ago | (#47787275)

I interpreted it that way that they put them on purpose there. To test the scanner.

Re:Found additional fuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787285)

No.

Public school reading comprehension.

The experimenters weren't told about the fuel. What part of the implies the operators didn't know about it?

Re:Found additional fuel (1)

Tanuki64 (989726) | about 2 months ago | (#47787355)

The experimenters weren't told about the fuel.

Of course the experimenters were not told about the fuel. When some company comes with a magic bullet like new technology, I'd be careful, too. Too often something like this happened:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADE_651/ [wikipedia.org]

And why I thought this was on purpose? Just because of 'They were really impressed that...'. If it wasn't on purpose, I expected the team gloating like 'They were really embarressed that a foreign team discovered their sloppiness'.

Re:Found additional fuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787675)

Oh, you're right. I had to re-read it.

Re:Found additional fuel (1)

lazy genes (741633) | about 2 months ago | (#47794021)

Reserchers found missing fuel rods, more at 11

Oh yeah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787263)

Research assistant Shelby Fellows got me emitting muons.

https://farm4.staticflickr.com... [staticflickr.com]

So much (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787305)

for your tin foil hat

Nifty. (2, Insightful)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 2 months ago | (#47787329)

I'm normally pretty mean to particle physicists, but this gear seems pretty nifty. More good info about something is rarely a bad thing.

Bullshit meter off scale (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787385)

These particles don't damage the imaged materials and, because they already stream through everything on Earth

That is some bullshit and whoever wrote this summary must be joking.

Muons are produced by high energy collision in the upper atmosphere. Muons (heavy form electrons) can have more than 1 TeV energy. To say "the don't damage anything" is the most retarded statement in the world. They are one of THE principal reasons for cosmic radiation at ground level. If people were transparent, you could detect 1+ muon exploding inside you. And you'd also see a nice trail of ionized flesh along its entire path.

How do I know? I've measured muons in my undergrad physics class. We used a few centimeters of lead to stop them (ones with specific energy rage, of course) and then measure their lifetime.

Fun tidbit - it's one example of Special Relativity that we can detect them at ground level at all.

Anyway, getting back to the damaging bits, they are much more dangerous than any few Bq of Cesium you eat. But hey, "natural radiation" can't be bad! Only the stuff people make must be, right? right? Too bad there is no difference.

Re:Bullshit meter off scale (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787789)

To say "the don't damage anything" is the most retarded statement in the world. They are one of THE principal reasons for cosmic radiation at ground level.

So according to you, we're all dead due to all this cosmic radiation? My wife is going to be very annoyed when she finds out, and I'm none too happy about it, either.

Re:Bullshit meter off scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47788809)

No, according to him the effects of muon exposure are easily measurable. You need far more of them then you'll find naturally to be endangered by them, but that doesn't mean they are as unstoppable as the summary implies.

Re:Bullshit meter off scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47790233)

ones with specific energy rage, of course

Those are the worst. The only-angry ones do much less damage.

Re:Bullshit meter off scale (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a month ago | (#47798865)

It's happening anyway. They don't add to the muon radiation to the background because the background is already enough.
It's apparently not really dangerous because we have all grown up under this radiation.

Dr. Manhattan (3, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 months ago | (#47787393)

I get the feeling there's a superhero origin story somewhere in all this "Let's bombard active nuclear fuel rods with muons and see what happens".

Re:Dr. Manhattan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787437)

Bad news: We're already bombarding everything on Earth with muons! Damn scientists!

Re:Dr. Manhattan (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 months ago | (#47787497)

Ah, but did they remember to reverse the polarity on the power couplings? It doesn't do anything unless you reverse the polarity.

Re:Dr. Manhattan (1)

Mogster (459037) | about 2 months ago | (#47787585)

Can they do that with sonic? Do we know what effect the sonic would have on the muons?
And if they do use sonic make sure there's only one device to prevent confusing the polarity.

Re:Dr. Manhattan (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 months ago | (#47787447)

except active mouons of sufficient energy are unlikely to be emitted on the fly. A mouon has a life expectency of some few dozen milliseconds, tops.

The reason that we have mouons from the sun this far into our atmosphere?

The mouons are created when highly energetic protons and iron nucleii from the solar wind hit our upper atmosphere. (Collisions many times more energetic than anything currently being done at CERN), and these resulting mouons have a significant imparted inertial energy behind them-- they come into being traveling at relativisitc velocities. So, for them, a few dozen miliseconds pass before they decay-- but to us, they exist for several dozens of seconds. Long enough for them to come streaming down from the sky in an endless daylight barrage of partical radiation.

Mouons that come into being from fission decay reactions arent quite as energetic-- but still useful for imaging purposes. However, being less energetic, they dont live as long to outside observers, like us.

What am I getting at here?

Dr Manhattan is unlikely to come into being from energetic mouons interacting with fissile reactor fuel rods. Transporting said fuel rods by air exposes them to shittons of them. So far, no superheros have been born this way. :D

Re:Dr. Manhattan (2)

radtea (464814) | about 2 months ago | (#47788191)

Mouons that come into being from fission decay reactions arent quite as energetic-- but still useful for imaging purposes.

There are (almost) no muons produced by fission. Fission events produce energies of around 200 MeV. Muons have a mass of just over 100 MeV. The phase space available for muon production is essentially nil because so much energy is almost always carried away by the fission products. Basically, to make a muon you have to have everything else stand still. The production rate isn't quite zero, but is close enough to it to not matter.

The technology they are using in this case is to look at cosmic ray muons passing through the reactor core. Similar technology was used to look for undiscovered chambers in Egyptian pyramids in the 80's, if memory serves: cosmic ray muons have ridiculous amounts of energy (they are the bane of neutrino physicists because no matter how deep the lab the muon signal is still appreciable, even under a kilometer or rock. SNO, which is one of the deepest labs in the world, is 2 km down and muons are still detectable, although only at rates of a few per day if memory serves.

Re:Dr. Manhattan (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 months ago | (#47788423)

Similar technology was used to look for undiscovered chambers in Egyptian pyramids in the 80's, if memory serves

Of course. Where do you think The Mummy came from?

I love science.

Re:Dr. Manhattan (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 months ago | (#47788407)

Dr Manhattan is unlikely to come into being from energetic mouons interacting with fissile reactor fuel rods.

I'm sure they said a spider-man was unlikely to come into being from being bitten by a radioactive spider, too. But guess what happened.

Either way, as someone who doesn't know from nothing, I'm completely in favor of bombarding nuclear rods with muons. Because I like saying "muons". "Muons...muons..." If you watch yourself in the mirror when you say "muon" your mouth makes a little kissyface. Fun!

Now please excuse me. This bottle of single-malt isn't going to drink itself.

Modded up why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47791335)

How did this get modded up when the only thing close to right is that they are created in the atmosphere and that time dilation is one way to view there ability to travel far? The consistent misspelling of their name should at least be a red-flag.

The mouons are created when highly energetic protons and iron nucleii from the solar wind hit our upper atmosphere.

Solar wind is no where even close to strong enough to create muons, as it doesn't even travel at relativistic speed let alone carry couple hundred MeV of energy. The vast majority of cosmic rays come from outside of the solar system, especially when considering the energies need to muons, and 99+% of the cosmic rays are protons.

they come into being traveling at relativisitc velocities. So, for them, a few dozen miliseconds pass before they decay-- but to us, they exist for several dozens of seconds.

The half-life of muons is a couple microseconds, not on the order of milliseconds. And even the highest energy ones we can detect will have lifetimes shorter than dozens of seconds. Since they are traveling close to the speed of light, they can travel over half a kilometer without taking into account time dilation, and for the vast majority of muons this is only extended by a factor of ten to hundred. That is still plenty of distance to reach detectors, but means lifetimes below a millisecond. At the limit of what we can detect, there is barely enough energy to be discussing 10s lifetimes, with fluxes many orders of magnitude below typical.

Long enough for them to come streaming down from the sky in an endless daylight barrage of partical radiation.

Practically the same number of muons come at night as during the day... there is some diurnal variation due to the effects of the Sun's magnetic field on lower energy cosmic rays, but since the cosmic rays are not coming from the Sun, they are almost always present with only small variations.

Mouons that come into being from fission decay reactions arent quite as energetic-- but still useful for imaging purposes.

Not only are fission decays not energetically likely to produce muons, they can't funnel that into pair production and don't involve the weak force in the right way to produce a single muon. You're not going to be detecting them from fission decays with such a setup.

Transporting said fuel rods by air exposes them to shittons of them.

Anything, whether in a building, or underwater or in lead will be exposed to a lot of muons, unless behind kilometers of material.

They can't pass through everything ... (1)

Aviation Pete (252403) | about 2 months ago | (#47787481)

... or they couldn't be detectable. In order to measure muons, they need to interact with the instruments, which are clearly part of earth. This alone shows that most of the summary is bunk. Muons can very well damage the materials they pass through.

As usual, please do not use Slashdot summaries for your physics education.

Re:They can't pass through everything ... (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 months ago | (#47787519)

Mouons are interesting things. Too bad that they need to have tremendous energies behind them to exist for any useful period of time-- As you have pointed out, they can and do cause damage.

It would be nice if they were more easily contained and or directed; Mouon induced fusion would be a very interesting thing to explore if focused high energy mouons were a thing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org]

Firing such a beam through some hot water would be a very interesting thing indeed.

Re:They can't pass through everything ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47791519)

Mouon induced fusion would be a very interesting thing to explore if focused high energy mouons were a thing.

Focused high energy muons are a thing, as muon beams get produced at particle accelerators and are how muon induced fusion was discovered. A first step to learning more about such things might be learning to spell the name first.

a few fuel bundles off to the side (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787523)

And is this normal procedure?
Someone sneaking a bit of plutonium creation?
Just carelessness?

Re:a few fuel bundles off to the side (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47787655)

Just carelessness?

No. Just another anti-nuke FUD summary by mdsolar. The operators of the reactor know the bundle was there, they waited to see if the experimenters would find it.

Re:a few fuel bundles off to the side (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 2 months ago | (#47790629)

> No. Just another anti-nuke FUD summary by mdsolar

And this is just another example of reading comprehension problems on the part of the mdhaters.

> The operators of the reactor know the bundle was there, they waited to see if the experimenters would find it.

Yes, that is *exactly what it says* in the *direct quote from the source*. I'm sorry you have so much trouble parsing this and confused it with something mdsolar created that implied something different. I understand ASL courses are quite inexpensive.

Physics post docs are looking good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47788973)

Brains and looks sign me up Los Alamos!

Not the only way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47792673)

Createc (http://www.createc.co.uk) has been deploying a system called "N-Visage" at Fukushima Daiichi to image the insides of the reactor halls.

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