Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunken supertankers could spot rogue nuclear reactors

This undated photo released by Yonhap news agency in Seoul on April 5, 2010 shows the 300,000-tonne South Korean tanker Samho Dream at sea.French scientists have invented a new way to determine if nations are developing clandestine nuclear facilities — sink supertankers off their coastlines.

Physicist Thierry Lasserre of the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission and his team have developed a new technique using antineutrinos (antimatter particles released whenever a proton is turned into an electron) to detect nuclear facilities from afar.

“This detection technique is not that novel,” says Dr. Pekka Sinervo, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto and senior vice-president of research at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

He points out that the “Snow Lab” 2 km beneath Sudbury, Ont., has been detecting neutrinos emitted by the Sun for 20 years. “That said, it is still a difficult experiment to complete and control,” he adds.

Nuclear fission reactors produce vast amounts of antineutrinos, but these weak particles are hard to detect without large volumes of matter.

In the past, scientists have filled giant swimming pools with water and waited for antineutrinos to hit the water’s protons, emitting a positron and a neutron, to detect them. Thierry’s idea would allow scientists to pick up antineutrinos without setting up a pool next to a reactor.

His plan is to turn a supertanker into an antineutrino detector by filling it with a massive number of protons in the form of 138,000 tons of linear alkyl benzene. Named the Secret Neutrino Interactions Finder (SNIF) the ship could then be sailed near a nation’s coastline and sunk under 4 km of water, turning it into a massive antineutrinos detector. ...

via Sunken supertankers could spot rogue nuclear reactors, scientist says -

1 comment:

gnertsi said...

Actually, protons don't turn into electrons. Protons turn into neutrons and in the process they emit a positron (anti-electron) and a neutrino.

Oh and the "Snow-lab" is actually the SNO-lab (Sunbury Neutrino Observatory).