In support of a US-Argentine experiment to learn more about the mysterious particles, a neutrino detecting kit has been deployed into the containment of Argentina’s Atucha 2 reactor.

Nucleoelectrica Argentina SA (NA-SA) owns and operates Atucha 2, a 693 MWe pressurized heavy water reactor that has been in operation since 2014. “We chose Atucha II because it has higher power and offers us with a favorable location very close to the reactor core,” said Iván Sidelnik of the Bariloche Atomic Center.

Although nuclear power stations have previously been used to research neutrinos, this is the first time that the experiment has been conducted under containment.

Neutrinos are ubiquitous since they come from stars all across the cosmos, but because of their small mass and lack of electric charge, they seldom interact with matter and are thus difficult to detect and study. Nuclear reactors, on the other hand, produce neutrinos with each fission process, making them a local and concentrated source of the harmless particles.

Sidelnik and other vIOLETTA Project scientists are using sensitive Skipper CCD equipment developed by Fermilab and Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States. These will be able to detect interactions between neutrinos and a silicon matrix in a similar way to a digital camera. The setup will provide them with new information on neutrinos in hitherto unknown low energy regions.

Even though vIOLETTA is only 12 meters away from Atucha 2, which operates at over 300°C, the detector must be cooled to -230°C. It must also be protected against the vibrations generated by the power plant’s operation. While the equipment will be monitored remotely, Sidelnik believes having Nucleoelectrica’s qualified personnel on present will be beneficial.

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A long-running neutrino experiment at China’s Daya Bay and Ling Ao nuclear power reactors was completed in September of this year. Large detectors had been deployed underground in protected areas. Scientists were able to understand more about the interactions between neutrinos that cause some of them to vanish by comparing results from two sets of detectors.

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