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In the frame of the LIFE@PROTEUS program, a measurement technique is being developed to measure fission rates in burnt fuel, following re-irradiation in a zero-power research reactor. In the presented approach, the fission rates are estimated by measuring high energy gamma-rays (above 2000 keV) emitted by short-lived fission products freshly produced in the fuel. Due to their high energies, these gamma-rays can be discriminated against the high intrinsic gamma-ray activity of the burnt fuel, which reaches energies up to ~2000 keV. To demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, fresh and burnt fuel samples (with burn-ups varying from 36 to 64 MWd/kg) were irradiated in the PROTEUS reactor at the Paul Scherrer Institut, and their emitted gamma-ray spectra were recorded shortly after irradiation. It was possible, for the first time, to detect the short-lived gamma-ray activity in the high-energy region, even in the presence of the intrinsic gamma-ray background of the burnt fuel samples. Using the short-lived gamma-ray lines 142La (2542 keV), 89Rb (2570 keV), 95Y (2632 keV), 138Cs (2640 keV) and 95Y (3576 keV), relative fission rates between different core positions were derived for a fresh sample as well as for a burnt sample with a burn-up of 36 MWd/kg. It was shown that, for both the fresh and burnt fuel samples, the measured fission rate ratios agreed well, i.e. within the statistical uncertainties, with calculation results obtained by Monte Carlo simulations.
Date of Conference: 7-10 June 2009