In DepthNuclear Disaster

Muons probe Fukushima's ruins

Science  06 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6226, pp. 1052-1053
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6226.1052

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Summary

Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, destroyed 4 years ago by an earthquake and tsunami, won't be truly safe until engineers can remove nuclear fuel from three reactors that suffered meltdowns. But first, they have to find that fuel. A novel way to map the scattered uranium may have come, literally, from out of the blue. Two groups of physicists plan to capture muons raining down from the upper atmosphere after they stream through the reactor wreckage, resulting in x-ray–like images that could pinpoint the uranium. Muon detectors have already been deployed at one reactor, and a second approach to muon imaging will be tried at a second reactor and, depending on results, the third as well.