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We report the first measurement of the neutrino-oxygen neutral-current quasielastic (NCQE) cross section. It is obtained by observing nuclear deexcitation γ rays which follow neutrino-oxygen interactions at the Super-Kamiokande water Cherenkov detector. We use T2K data corresponding to 3.01×1020 protons on target. By selecting only events during the T2K beam window and with well-reconstructed vertices in the fiducial volume, the large background rate from natural radioactivity is dramatically reduced. We observe 43 events in the 4-30 MeV reconstructed energy window, compared with an expectation of 51.0, which includes an estimated 16.2 background events. The background is primarily nonquasielastic neutral-current interactions and has only 1.2 events from natural radioactivity. The flux-averaged NCQE cross section we measure is 1.55×10-38cm2 with a 68% confidence interval of (1.22,2.20)×10-38cm2 at a median neutrino energy of 630 MeV, compared with the theoretical prediction of 2.01×10-38cm2.

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Physical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology