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Title: A new method to measure the U-235 content in fresh LWR fuel assemblies via fast-neutron passive self-interrogation

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to provide a solution to a decades old safeguards problem in the verification of the fissile concentration in fresh light water reactor (LWR) fuel assemblies. The problem is that the burnable poison (e.g. Gd 2O 3) addition to the fuel rods decreases the active neutron assay for the fuel assemblies. This paper presents a new innovative method for the verification of the 235U linear mass density in fresh LEU fuel assemblies that is insensitive to the burnable poison content. The technique makes use of the 238U atoms in the fuel rods to self-interrogate the 235U mass. The innovation for the new approach is that the 238U spontaneous fission (SF) neutrons from the rods induces fission reactions (IF) in the 235U that are time correlated with the SF source neutrons. Thus, the coincidence gate counting rate benefits from both the nu-bar of the 238U SF (2.07) and the 235U IF (2.44) for a fraction of the IF reactions. Whereas, the 238U SF background has no time-correlation boost. The higher the detection efficiency, the higher the correlated boost because background neutron counts from the SF are being converted to signal doubles. This time-correlation in the IFmore » signal increases signal/background ratio that provides a good precision for the net signal from the 235U mass. The hard neutron energy spectrum makes the technique insensitive to the burnable poison loading where a Cd or Gd liner on the detector walls is used to prevent thermal-neutron reflection back into the fuel assembly from the detector. Here, we have named the system the fast-neutron passive collar (FNPC).« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1]; ORCiD logo [1];  [1]
  1. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
OSTI Identifier:
1402652
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-17-27908
Journal ID: ISSN 0168-9002; TRN: US1703245
Grant/Contract Number:
AC52-06NA25396
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research. Section A, Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 877; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 0168-9002
Publisher:
Elsevier
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
46 INSTRUMENTATION RELATED TO NUCLEAR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY; Fast neutrons; Reactor fuel assemblies; Passive neutron assay; Neutron collar

Citation Formats

Menlove, Howard Olsen, Belian, Anthony P., Geist, William H., and Rael, Carlos D.. A new method to measure the U-235 content in fresh LWR fuel assemblies via fast-neutron passive self-interrogation. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1016/j.nima.2017.09.038.
Menlove, Howard Olsen, Belian, Anthony P., Geist, William H., & Rael, Carlos D.. A new method to measure the U-235 content in fresh LWR fuel assemblies via fast-neutron passive self-interrogation. United States. doi:10.1016/j.nima.2017.09.038.
Menlove, Howard Olsen, Belian, Anthony P., Geist, William H., and Rael, Carlos D.. 2017. "A new method to measure the U-235 content in fresh LWR fuel assemblies via fast-neutron passive self-interrogation". United States. doi:10.1016/j.nima.2017.09.038.
@article{osti_1402652,
title = {A new method to measure the U-235 content in fresh LWR fuel assemblies via fast-neutron passive self-interrogation},
author = {Menlove, Howard Olsen and Belian, Anthony P. and Geist, William H. and Rael, Carlos D.},
abstractNote = {The purpose of this paper is to provide a solution to a decades old safeguards problem in the verification of the fissile concentration in fresh light water reactor (LWR) fuel assemblies. The problem is that the burnable poison (e.g. Gd2O3) addition to the fuel rods decreases the active neutron assay for the fuel assemblies. This paper presents a new innovative method for the verification of the 235U linear mass density in fresh LEU fuel assemblies that is insensitive to the burnable poison content. The technique makes use of the 238U atoms in the fuel rods to self-interrogate the 235U mass. The innovation for the new approach is that the 238U spontaneous fission (SF) neutrons from the rods induces fission reactions (IF) in the 235U that are time correlated with the SF source neutrons. Thus, the coincidence gate counting rate benefits from both the nu-bar of the 238U SF (2.07) and the 235U IF (2.44) for a fraction of the IF reactions. Whereas, the 238U SF background has no time-correlation boost. The higher the detection efficiency, the higher the correlated boost because background neutron counts from the SF are being converted to signal doubles. This time-correlation in the IF signal increases signal/background ratio that provides a good precision for the net signal from the 235U mass. The hard neutron energy spectrum makes the technique insensitive to the burnable poison loading where a Cd or Gd liner on the detector walls is used to prevent thermal-neutron reflection back into the fuel assembly from the detector. Here, we have named the system the fast-neutron passive collar (FNPC).},
doi = {10.1016/j.nima.2017.09.038},
journal = {Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research. Section A, Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment},
number = C,
volume = 877,
place = {United States},
year = 2017,
month =
}

Journal Article:
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  • Cited by 3
  • The large amounts of plutonium in reactor spent fuel assemblies has led to increased research directed toward the measurement of the plutonium for safeguards verification. The high levels of fission product gamma-ray activity and curium neutron backgrounds have made the plutonium measurement difficult. We have developed a new technique that can directly measure both the {sup 235}U concentration and the plutonium fissile concentration using the intrinsic neutron emission fronl the curium in the fuel assembly. The passive neutron albedo reactivity (PNAR) method has been described previously where the curium neutrons are moderated in the surrounding water and reflect back intomore » the fuel assembly to induce fissions in the fissile material in the assembly. The cadmium (Cd) ratio is used to separate the spontaneous fission source neutrons from the reflected thermal neutron fission reactions. This method can measure the sum of the {sup 235}U and the plutonium fissile mass, but not the separate components. Our new differential die-away self-interrogation method (DDSI) can be used to separate the {sup 235}U from the {sup 239}Pu. The method has been applied to both fuel rods and full assemblies. For fuel rods the epi-thermal neutron reflection method filters the reflected neutrons through thin Cd filters so that the reflected neutrons are from the epi-cadmium energy region. The neutron fission energy response in the epi-cadmium region is distinctly different for {sup 235}U and {sup 239}Pu. We are able to measure the difference between {sup 235}U and {sup 239}Pu by sampling the neutron induced fission rate as a function of time and multiplicity after the initial fission neutron is detected. We measure the neutron fission rate using list-mode data collection that stores the time correlations between all of the counts. The computer software can select from the data base the time correlations that include singles, doubles, and triples. The die-away time for the doubles distribution is distinctly different for {sup 235}U and {sup 239}Pu. The {sup 239}Pu has a higher fission cross-section in the epi-cadmium neutron region and larger induced fission moments than {sup 235}U, so the measured die-away time can provide the relative amounts of {sup 239}Pu and {sup 235}U. This paper will present the Monte Carlo simulations for the detector and sample configurations for both fuel pins and full fuel assemblies.« less
  • In this study, Monte Carlo simulations were performed for the differential die-away (DDA) technique to analyse the time-dependent behaviour of the neutron population in fresh and spent nuclear fuel assemblies as part of the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative Spent Fuel (NGSI-SF) Project. Simulations were performed to investigate both a possibly portable as well as a permanent DDA instrument. Taking advantage of a custom made modification to the MCNPX code, the variation in the neutron population, simultaneously in time and space, was examined. The motivation for this research was to improve the design of the DDA instrument, as it is bemore » ing considered for possible deployment at the Central Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel and Encapsulation Plant in Sweden (Clab), as well as to assist in the interpretation of the both simulated and measured signals.« less
  • This paper describes an unattended mode neutron measurement that can provide the enrichment of the uranium in UF{sub 6} cylinders. The new passive neutron measurement provides better penetration into the uranium mass than prior gamma-ray enrichment measurement methods. The Passive Neutron Enrichment Monitor (PNEM) provides a new measurement technique that uses passive neutron totals and coincidence counting together with neutron self-interrogation to measure the enrichment in the cylinders. The measurement uses the neutron rates from two detector pods. One of the pods has a bare polyethylene surface next to the cylinder and the other polyethylene surface is covered with Cdmore » to prevent thermal neutrons from returning to the cylinder. The primary neutron source from the enriched UF{sub 6} is the alpha-particle decay from the {sub 234}U that interacts with the fluorine to produce random neutrons. The singles neutron counting rate is dominated by the {sub 234}U neutrons with a minor contribution from the induced fissions in the {sub 235}U. However, the doubles counting rate comes primarily from the induced fissions (i.e., multiplication) in the {sub 235}U in enriched uranium. The PNEM concept makes use of the passive neutrons that are initially produced from the {sub 234}U reactions that track the {sub 235}U enrichment during the enrichment process. The induced fission reactions from the thermal-neutron albedo are all from the {sub 235}U and provide a measurement of the {sub 235}U. The Cd ratio has the desirable feature that all of the thermal-neutron-induced fissions in {sub 235}U are independent of the original neutron source. Thus, the ratio is independent of the uranium age, purity, and prior reactor history.« less
  • The use of Self-Interrogation Neutron Resonance Densitometry (SINRD) to measure the {sup 235}U and {sup 239}Pu content in a PWR spent fuel assembly was investigated via Monte Carlo N-Particle eXtended transport code (MCNPX) simulations. The sensitivity of SINRD is based on using the same fissile materials in the fission chambers as are present in the fuel because the effect of resonance absorption lines in the transmitted flux is amplified by the corresponding (n, f) reaction peaks in fission chamber. These simulations utilize the {sup 244}Cm spontaneous fission neutrons to self-interrogate the fuel pins. The amount of resonance absorption of thesemore » neutrons in the fuel can be measured using {sup 235}U and {sup 239}Pu fission chambers placed adjacent to the assembly. We used ratios of different fission chambers to reduce the sensitivity of the measurements to extraneous material present in fuel. The development of SINRD to measure the fissile content in spent fuel is of great importance to the improvement of nuclear safeguards and material accountability. Future work includes the use of this technique to measure the fissile content in FBR spent fuel and heavy metal product from reprocessing methods.« less