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Researchers Develop Advanced Technologies to Detect Concentration of Radioactive Materials

The Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 triggered by the tsunami and earthquake of March 11 led to the presence of atmospheric radioactive aerosols in the Washington state, which was estimated at around 10,000 to 100,000 times more than normal levels.

A research team at the University of Texas at Austin found that despite the increase in levels, they were not harmful enough to pose health risks to residents. Providing an insight into the magnitude of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the study was published in Journal of Environmental Radioactivity by a professor of mechanical engineering at the Cockrell School of Engineering along with a team of researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

The published paper demonstrates the technological advancements used in the monitoring of nuclear material and in detecting various covert nuclear operations worldwide. The Associate Professor from the Cockrell School of Engineering involved with the paper, Steven Biegalski stated that the sensitive monitoring technology is the result of international research collaborations, which is not beneficial only for monitoring of nuclear materials but also beneficial to emergency response teams. Biegalski is an expert in nuclear modeling, nuclear monitoring and nuclear forensics and is currently developing algorithms that will aid in improving the capabilities of the monitoring technology.

Using advanced technology at the PNNL, a team of researchers first detected the presence of radioactive material in the United States. Xenon 133, the detected material belongs to the same chemical family as argon and helium. An inert gas, Xenon 133 does not react with any other chemical and in small doses it is not harmful. In the medical field, it is used in the study of blood flow through the brain and air flow through the lungs.

The published report states that radioxenon was released in a higher concentration from the Fukushima facilities as compared to the 1979 meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station and the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine due to the presence of two additional nuclear reactors at the Fukushima facility.

Source: http://www.engr.utexas.edu/

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