Determination of the subcriticality level using the 252Cf source-detector method

Research outputpeer-review


Measurement and monitoring of reactivity in a subcritical state, e.g. during the loading of a power reactor, has a clear safety relevance. The methods currently available for the measurement of keff in stationary subcritical conditions should be improved as they refer to the critical state. This is also very important in the framework of ADS (accelerator driven systems) where the measurement of a subcritical level without knowledge of the critical state is looked for. An alternative way to achieve this is by mean of the 252Cf source-detector method. The method makes use of three detectors inserted in the reactor: two “ordinary” neutron detectors and one 252Cf source-detector which contains a small amount of 252Cf that introduces neutrons in the system through spontaneous fission. By observing fissions through the detection system and correlating the signals of the three detectors, the reactivity ρ (and hence the multiplication factor k) can be determined.

Before the actual measurements took place, a suitable data acquisition system was realized in order to process the signals and compute the auto and cross power spectral densities. The measurements were then performed in the VENUS reactor, using the 252Cf source-detector and two BF3 neutron detectors. The multiplication factor was determined using the Cf source method and compared with measurements using other methods and with computational results (Monte Carlo simulations). The Cf method was benchmarked at a UOX core to other experimental methods that used the critical state as reference and to calculations. Afterwards, the Cf source technique was analyzed in a MOX core to study the possible impact of a significant intrinsic source on the results. This benchmarking gives the possibility to validate the Cf method as a reliable technique for the measurement of subcritical levels in steady state and for cores with an intrinsic source like MOX or burnt fuel cores.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-752
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of nuclear energy
Issue number5
StatePublished - 3 Mar 2010

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