Skip to Main Content
Pebble bed reactors are characterized by multipass fuel systems in which spherical fuel pebbles are circulated through the core until they reach a proposed burnup limit (80000-100000 MWD/MTU). For such reactors, the fuel is assayed on-line to ensure that the burnup limit is not breached. We considered assaying the fuel using an HPGe detector to perform passive gamma-ray spectrometry of fission products. Since neither fresh nor irradiated fuel is readily available, computer simulations were utilized to identify the radionuclides that can be used as burnup indicators, and to visualize the gamma-ray spectra at various levels of burnup. Specifically, we used the ORIGEN-MONTEBURNS-MCNP code system. This allowed the establishment of the burnup dependent one-group gas reactor cross-sections for the radionuclides of interest. Subsequently, ORIGEN was used to simulate in-core pebble depletion to establish the irradiated pebble isotopics. Finally, the codes MCNP and SYNTH were used to simulate the response of the HPGe gamma-ray spectrometer. The results show that absolute and relative indicators can be used on-line to determine unambiguously the enrichment and burnup on a pebble-by-pebble basis. The activity of Cs-137 or the activity ratio of Co-60/Cs-134 can be combined with the activity ratio of Np-239/I-132 to yield the enrichment and burnup information. To use the relative indicators, a relative efficiency calibration of the gamma-ray spectrometer can be performed using the La-140 gamma lines that are emitted by the irradiated pebble. I-132, Cs-134, Cs-137, La-140, and Np-239 are produced upon the irradiation of the fuel. Co-60 is produced by doping the fuel with a small amount (∼100 ppm) of Co-59. Using this approach, the uncertainty in burnup determination due to factors such as power history variation, detector efficiency calibration, and counting statistics is expected to remain in the range of ±5% to ±10%.