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Xenon 133

Susanne Gerber

11.09.2011

The amount of radiation released during the Fukushima nuclear disaster was so high that the level of atmospheric radioactive aerosols in Washington state was 10 000 to 100 000 times higher than normal levels. The findings, published by a mechanical engineering professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering and researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), provide important insight into the magnitude of the disaster. They also demonstrate huge advancements in the technology that’s used for monitoring nuclear material and detecting covert nuclear operations around the world. The material detected, Xenon, is of the same chemical family as helium and argon and is an inert gas, meaning it does not react with other chemicals. The gas  is not harmful in small doses and is used medically to study the flow of blood through the brain and the flow of air through the lungs. Xenon 133 is a nuclear fission product that is closely monitored at nuclear stations around the world because it can be used to determine whether a country has conducted an illegal or covert nuclear test explosion. Such tests are banned under the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted by the United Nations in 1996 and created a worldwide network of nuclear monitoring stations. The detection of the radioactive gas in Washington is significant. „The culmination of international research collaborations resulted in this very sensitive monitoring technology. These advancements will not only be beneficial for nuclear monitoring, they are also very beneficial to the emergency response teams called to disasters like Fukushima,“ said Biegalski, an expert in nuclear forensics, nuclear modeling, and nuclear monitoring, who is currently developing complex algorithms that will be used to improve the capabilities even more. As soon as he and PNNL researchers began detecting radioactive gases in Washington, they shared the data with federal officials in the U.S. and Japan so that it could be relayed to emergency responders on the ground at Fukushima. „As the measurements came in sooner and at higher concentrations than we initially expected, we quickly came to the conclusion that there were some major core melts at those facilities,“ Biegalski said. The thought was confirmed by data collected by he and PNNL researchers. Their study reports that more radioxenon was released from the Fukushima facilities than in the 1979 meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania and in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Ukraine.

The study was published in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity.

Provided by University of Texas at Austin

 

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Einsortiert unter:Fukushima, Meltdown, Research

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