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Physicists Produce Antineutrino Map of the World 75

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The origin of the heat generated inside the Earth is one of the great mysteries of geophysics. Researchers know that almost all this heat is generated by the decay of radioactive elements such as potassium-40, thorium-232 and uranium-238. But what they don't know is how these elements are distributed inside the planet and how much heat each contributes. In the next few years, they hope to get some answers thanks to the emerging science of antineutrino geophysics. Since radioactive decay produces antineutrinos, an experiment that measures these particles coming out of the Earth should provide a detailed picture of the distribution of the elements within it.

But there's a problem. Nuclear reactors also produce copious numbers of antineutrinos and these can swamp the signal from inside the Earth. What's needed is a map showing the distribution of reactor antineutrinos so that geophysicists can choose the best places to put their experiments. Just such a map is exactly what a team of nuclear physicists has now produced. The map shows that planned experiments in Hawaii and Curacao, off the coast of Venezuela, are in excellent locations and that Japan has recently become a much better site thanks to the shut down of the country's nuclear industry following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. But a European experiment currently being planned in south-east France doesn't come off so well."
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Physicists Produce Antineutrino Map of the World

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  • Re:Hmmmm ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by SeeSchloss ( 886510 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @11:00AM (#46584113) Homepage
    The map is actually produced from IAEA data, not from measurements, so no it won't help. On the contrary, the idea is that these measurements are so difficult/expensive to make that it's better to choose a place far from nuclear plants which would skew them. We can't just measure antineutrinos worldwide (at least for now).
  • Re:Hmmmm ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @11:02AM (#46584129)

    No. The map was made using existing data on known nuclear reactors and their power output and extrapolating what their antineutrino signature should look like. However, if geophysicists install detectors that show strong signatures that do not match up with the map given here, then that might be evidence for clandestine nuclear activity. It should be possible to determine the origin of the antineutrinos from their energy signature--i.e., whether they come from natural or artificial sources. Which actually sounds like a pretty straightforward way to get a project like this funded.

  • Re:Hmmmm ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Eunuchswear ( 210685 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @11:23AM (#46584285) Journal

    Is it safe to assume that even nuclear weapons will emit a considerable amount of anti-neutrinos?

    Doubt it.

    Nukes are not doing very much when they're not going bang.

    See, for example, Japan going dark as the reactors are taken off line.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.