Sudbury SNOLAB makes scientific breakthrough in monitoring nuclear power


A surprise result during an experiment at SNOLAB in Sudbury revealed a scientific breakthrough in the astroparticle physics field.

The SNO+ (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) experiment is not yet completed, but the unexpected finding of antineutrinos in pure water is exciting researchers at the possibility of being able to monitor nuclear power plants around the world.

New SNOLAB experiment has made a breakthrough in the astroparticle physics field (Supplied)

“While filled with ultrapure water as the detector’s components were being upgraded in 2018, 190 days of data yielded results that surprised the experiment team and is a first in the field of astroparticle physics,” SNOLAB said in a news release Monday.

“In the data was an antineutrino signal that came from the Bruce, Darlington and Pickering nuclear-generating stations hundreds of kilometres away… This suggests it is possible to use neutrino detectors such as SNO+ to continuously monitor a reactor’s power production from a great distance.”

Being able to build neutrino detectors with a non-toxic, inexpensive and easy-to-handle material such as ultrapure water will be important for their development.

“This finding is a great indicator that we can expect very exciting physics from the scintillator phase, running now for nearly 10 months, well into the future,” said Christine Kraus, a SNOLAB research scientist.

The experiment vessel is five stories tall and now filled with a liquid much like mineral oil that lights up when charged particles pass through it.

Underground cavity where neutrino experiment is taking place in Sudbury. (SNOLAB)

Researchers are looking for rare nuclear decay to confirm the neutrino is its own antiparticle.

The findings will be published by the American Physical Society’s Physics Magazine on Thursday.

A synopsis of Evidence of Antineutrinos from Distant Reactors using Pure Water at SNO+ can be found here.

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