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Telltale Antineutrinos Could Reveal Rogue Nuclear Programs

These stealthy subatomic particles could someday be used to see across national borders

5 min read
Telltale Antineutrinos Could Reveal Rogue Nuclear Programs
Keep Close Watch: Iran’s Arak nuclear facility is one that the IAEA wants to monitor.
Photo: Hamid Foroutan/AFP/Getty Images

Any deal to keep anaspiring nuclear-armed state from acquiring a weapon must be based on verification, not trust, as ­President Obama has repeatedly asserted. That verification is charged to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose inspectors would visit a country such as Iran to ensure its facilities are in compliance.

Critics of the current deal between Iran and major world powers point to the agency’s limited verification tools. However, several advanced monitoring technologies that could make verification easier and more accurate are in the works. And with 60-plus nuclear power plants under construction around the world and spent-fuel stores piling up, these safeguard technologies might be useful in other places as well.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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