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Assessment of on-line burnup monitoring of pebble bed reactor fuel using passive gamma-ray spectrometry

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4 Author(s)
Hawari, A.I. ; Nucl. & Radiol. Eng. Program, Cincinnati Univ., OH, USA ; Jianwei Chen ; Bingjing Su ; Zhongxiang Zhao

An investigation was performed to assess the feasibility of passive gamma-ray spectrometry assay as an approach for on-line burnup determination for the Modular Pebble Bed Reactor (MPBR). In addition to its inherently safe design, a unique feature of this reactor is its multipass fuel cycle in which graphite fuel pebbles are randomly loaded and continuously circulated through the core until they reach their prescribed end-of-life burnup limit (∼80 000 MWD/MTU). Unlike the situation with conventional light water reactors, depending solely on computational methods to perform in-core fuel management will be highly inaccurate. As a result, an on-line measurement approach becomes the only accurate method to assess whether a particular pebble has reached its end-of-life burnup limit. The results of this investigation indicate that the fission products Cs-137 and Eu-154 have the potential to provide accurate and power-history-resistant signatures that can be directly correlated with burnup. Furthermore, depending on the fuel manufacturing process, artificially introduced dopants (e.g., Co) can provide gamma-ray lines that are usable for burnup monitoring. In fact, it was found that the relative activity of Co-60 to Cs-134 could form a burnup indicator that is resistant to power-history variations. In this case, the use of a relative indicator has several advantages, among them the elimination of the need for absolute knowledge of the detector full-energy peak efficiency curve and the establishment of a system quality-assurance figure of merit based on the peak area ratio of the Co lines.

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Nuclear Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:49 ,  Issue: 3 )