A group of Japanese researchers have successfully finished a study that used cosmic rays to detect nuclear fuel inside the reactor. This is a technology that can be used in the complicated decommissioning process at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which is expected to take decades to complete.
According to Fumihiko Takasaki, a researcher at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation (KEK), they conducted this study “carefully” so that it will become possible to detect nuclear fuel “anywhere in the world.” They worked with University of Tokyo, University of Tsukuba and Tokyo Metropolitan University and observed particles called muons that fall to the earth and can move through water, objects and human bodies. Usually they can move without hindrance but when faced with substances that have high density, for example, nuclear fuel, their penetration lessens. So researchers started observing how these muons behave in three locations near an offline nuclear plant in Ibaraki Prefecture between February 2012 to December 2013. They were able to track where exactly the muons were blocked, producing an image of the nuclear fuel at the plant.
Takasaki said they will be proposing to Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the utility operator at Fukushima, to use this system to enable them to pinpoint the locations of where the nuclear fuel is inside the crippled reactors. Hidekazu Kakuno, an associate professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University, said that the cosmic ray measurement system is ready to be used and it will only take two months of observation to produce visual images of the nuclear fuel. One of the problems that the workers are facing in the decommissioning is that there is no technology yet that can enable them to look inside the units without endangering their safety.
[ via Yahoo ]