Estimation of fissile material content in irradiated In-Pile Sections using neutron coincidence counters

Research outputpeer-review


A set of In-Pile Sections (IPS) has been irradiated in the BR2 reactor at SCK•CEN in Belgium during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The primary goal of the IPS was to replicate the thermo-hydraulic loop of a sodium-cooled fast reactor in order to study severe accident scenarios. The top part of the IPS contained the sodium-cooled loop whereas the lower part contained the fuel element. Due to the experimental conditions, the rupture of the fuel pins contained in the IPS occurred and fuel fragments may have been deposited in the rest of the IPS loop. The part of the IPS containing the fuel pins has been cut from the rest of the IPS and underwent post-irradiation examinations at specialized EU laboratories, while the top parts remained stored at SCK•CEN. To prepare for future transport, dismantling and conditioning, a reliable estimation of the total fissile content in the stored parts of the IPS is indispensable. In this framework, two IPS were measured with a Canberra WM3400 neutron coincidence counter with customized electronics. The measurements of the IPS were challenging due their length (roughly 6 m) and intense gamma-ray radiation background. For each IPS an axial scan was carried out with a series of short measurements (600-700 s each) recording the Totals rate and Reals rate. Based on the results of the axial scans, measurements with longer measurement time were conducted for the axial positions with the larger values of Reals rates. A system of equations was then established to quantify the 240Pu content in the different sections of the IPS from the Reals rates in each measurement position and account for cross-talk between the neutron emission associated to the different sections. A set of Monte Carlo simulations was carried out to estimate the probability to record a Real count in the detector due to spontaneous fission events occurring in a given section of the IPS. The 240Pu content in each section of the IPS was calculated by combining the measured Reals rates and the detection probabilities calculated with the simulations. The total fissile content in the IPS was then determined with scaling factors based on burnup calculations for the irradiated fuel assemblies in the IPS. The results indicate that both IPS measured with the neutron coincidence counters have a fissile content lower than the limit for transport. It is expected that the envisaged segmentation of the IPS in shorter sections required to fit into 200L drums will provide an additional safety margin on this limit.
Original languageEnglish
Article number06001
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalEPJ Web of Conferences
StatePublished - 20 Jan 2020
Event2019 - ANIMMA - Advancements in Nuclear Instrumentation Measurement Methods and their Applications: International conference on Advancements in Nuclear Instrumentation Measurement Methods and their Applications - Grand Hotel Bernardin, Portoroz
Duration: 17 Jun 201921 Jun 2019

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