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The GUINEVERE (Generation of Uninterrupted Intense NEutron pulses at the lead VEnus REactor) project was launched in 2006 within the framework of FP6 EUROTRANS in order to validate online reactivity monitoring and subcriticality level determination in accelerator driven systems (ADS). Therefore, the VENUS reactor at SCK-CEN in Mol, Belgium, was modified towards a fast core (VENUS-F) and coupled to the GENEPI-3C accelerator built by CNRS. The accelerator can operate in both continuous and pulsed mode. The VENUS-F core is loaded with enriched Uranium and reflected with solid lead. A well-chosen critical reference state is indispensable for the validation of the online subcriticality monitoring methodology. Moreover, a benchmarking tool is required for nuclear data research and code validation. In this paper, the design and the importance of the critical reference state for the GUINEVERE project are motivated. The results of the first experimental phase on the critical core are presented. The control rods worth is determined by the positive period method and the application of the Modified Source Multiplication (MSM) method allows the determination of the worth of the safety rods. The results are implemented in the VENUS-F core certificate for full exploitation of the critical core.