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Time-Spectral Analysis Methods for Spent Fuel Assay Using Lead Slowing-Down Spectroscopy

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4 Author(s)
Smith, L.E. ; Pacific Northwest Nat. Lab., Richland, WA, USA ; Anderson, K.K. ; Ressler, J.J. ; Shaver, M.W.

Nondestructive techniques for measuring the mass of fissile isotopes in spent nuclear fuel is a considerable challenge in the safeguarding of nuclear fuel cycles. A nondestructive assay technology that could provide direct measurement of fissile mass, particularly for the plutonium (Pu) isotopes, and improve upon the uncertainty of today's confirmatory methods is needed. Lead slowing-down spectroscopy (LSDS) has been studied for the spent fuel application previously, but the nonlinear effects of assembly self shielding (of the interrogating neutron population) have led to discouraging assay accuracy for realistic pressurized water reactor fuels. In this paper, we describe the development of time-spectral analysis algorithms for LSDS intended to overcome these self-shielding effects. The algorithm incorporates the tabulated energy-dependent cross sections from key fissile and absorbing isotopes, but leaves their mass as free variables. Multi-parameter regression analysis is then used to directly calculate not only the mass of fissile isotopes in the fuel assembly (e.g., Pu-239, U-235, and Pu-241), but also the mass of key absorbing isotopes such as Pu-240 and U-238. Modeling-based assay results using this self-shielding relationship indicate that LSDS has the potential to directly measure fissile isotopes with less than 5% average relative error for pressurized water reactor assemblies with burnup as high as 60 GWd/MTU. Shortcomings in the initial self-shielding model and potential improvements to the formulation are described.

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Nuclear Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:57 ,  Issue: 4 )