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CNP Researchers Deploy a Neutrino Detector Designed to Tracking Nuclear Activity

      Researchers at the Virginia Tech College of Science are carrying out a research project at Dominion Power's North Anna Nuclear Generating Station in Virginia that could lead to a new turning point in how the United Nations tracks rogue nations that seek nuclear power. This project centers on a high-tech box full of scintillating plastic cubes stacked atop one another (a detector called MiniCHANDLER) that can be placed just outside a nuclear reactor operated by, say, Iran. The box would detect the neutrinos produced by the reactor, which can be used to track the amount of plutonium produced in the reactor core.

      Created in large amounts during plant operation, the cast-off neutrinos that escape the reactor cannot be shielded or disguised, thus creating a foolproof tracking system for regulators, Link said. There is a challenge in separating neutrinos created by the reactor from everyday radioactive "noise" from the ground or raining down from energetic cosmic particles slamming into the Earth's atmosphere, but the team are confident they can extract a signal solely from the reactor neutrino output.

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Prof. Jonathan Link poses with the Mobile Neutrino Lab at the North Anna Nuclear Generating Station. Inside a high-tech box is designed to detect neutrinos produced in the reactor.

Argon Experiment Begins its Run at JLab

      After almost 3 years of preparations, an experiment lead by CNP Members Camillo Mariani and Omar Benhar and aimed at the determination of the nuclear structure of argon started its run at the Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory (JLab). By detecting protons knocked out from the argon nucleus by an electron beam, the measurement will provide complete information on the shell structure of argon, filling an important gap in our knowledge. The collected data will help the neutrino community to make more reliable estimates of neutrino-argon cross sections and to model nuclear effects more accurately in the next generation of neutrino-oscillation experiments, such as the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). An improved description of nuclear effects will allow a reduction in the systematic uncertainties in the measurement of charge-parity symmetry violation in neutrino oscillations and the search for proton decay, bringing us closer to understanding the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the Universe and constraining possible extensions of the Standard Model of particle physics.

The Hall A spectrometer at JLab, which will be used in the Argon Scattering Experiment.

Prof. Minic Gets Grant from the Schwinger Foundation

      The Julian Schwinger Foundation has awarded a $60,000 grant to CNP's Djordje Minic and his collaborators, Laurent Freidel of Perimeter Institute and Robert G. Leigh od the University of Illinois, that will be used to enhance their already existing collaborative effort through travel support (over the next 2 years), for travel between their respective home institutions and for conference-related travel.

      Freidel, Leigh and Minic have been doing research on the foundations of quantum theory and string theory, which builds on the prescient work of Julian Schwinger, and also on the work of Yakir Aharonov and collaborators, on the subject of modular variables in quantum theory. Very recently, Freidel, Leigh and Minic have found a novel geometry that underlies such a generic modular picture of quantum theory, which also points towards a new approach to the problem of quantum gravity. At the moment Freidel, Leigh and Minic are investigating in more detail the modular geometry of generic representations of quantum theory, including a modular representation of quantum field theory and the metastring formulation of quantum gravity.

Prof. Djordje Minic

Daya Bay Looks at the Reactor Antineutrino Anomaly in a New Way

      In a new study, the Daya Bay Collaboration, which includes several members of the Center for Neutrino Physics, measured the relative contributions of the two main fissionable isotopes, uranium-235 (235U) and plutonium-239 (239Pu), to the antineutrino flux from nuclear reactors. After refueling, a typical power reactor runs mostly on 235U, but over time other fissionable isotopes, like 239Pu build up in the reactor fuel. Daya Bay used this increasing rate of 239Pu fission to determine, for the first time, the interaction rates of neutrinos from the two isotopes in their detectors. The results of this study turned out to have interesting and unexpected consequences for a vexing problem known as the Reactor Antineutrino Anomaly.

The Reactor Antineutrino Anomaly refers to observation, first made in 2011, that the rate of antineutrinos observed in reactor neutrino experiments falls short of theoretical expectations by about 6%. This observation led to speculation that the missing neutrinos may be due to a new type neutrino oscillations involving the hypothetical sterile neutrino. This new result from Daya Bay, which finds that the missing antineutrinos are almost all associated with the 235U flux and are not spread evenly across both isotopes, throws cold water on that speculation, and instead suggests that the anomaly is due to errors in the modeling of the 235U antineutrinos.

The four identical antineutrinno detector in the Daya Bay far hall.

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The proceedings from Heavy Quarks and Leptons 2016 are now available online.