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B. Goddard, "Real-Time Detection of UREX+3a Extraction Streams for Materials Accountancy," M.S. Thesis, Texas A & M University, December 2009.



Reprocessing nuclear fuel is becoming more viable in the United States due to the anticipated increase in construction of nuclear power plants, the growing stockpile of existing used nuclear fuel, and a public desire to reduce the amount of this fuel. However, a new reprocessing facility in non-weapon states must be safeguarded and new reprocessing facilities in weapon states will likely have safeguards due to political and material accountancy reasons. These facilities will have state of the art controls and monitoring methods to safeguard special nuclear materials, as well as to provide real-time monitoring. The focus of this project is to enable the development of a safeguards strategy that uses well established photon measurement methods to characterize samples from the UREX+3a reprocessing method using a variety of detector types and measurement times.

It was determined that the errors from quantitative measurements were too large for traditional safeguards methods; however, a safeguards strategy based on qualitative gamma ray and neutron measurements is proposed. The gamma ray detection equipment used in the safeguard strategy could also be used to improve the real-time process monitoring in a yet-to-be built facility. A facility that had real-time gamma detection equipment could improve product quality control and provide additional benefits, such as waste volume reduction. In addition to the spectral analyses, it was determined by Monte Carlo N Particle (MCNP) simulations that there is no noticeable self shielding for internal pipe diameters less than 2 inches, indicating that no self shielding correction factors are needed. Further, it was determined that HPGe N-type detectors would be suitable for a neutron radiation environment. Finally, the gamma ray spectra for the measured samples were simulated using MCNP and then the model was extended to predict the responses from an actual reprocessing scenario from UREX+3a applied to fuel that had a decay time of three years. The 3-year decayed fuel was more representative of commercially reprocessed fuel than the acquired UREX+3a samples.

This research found that the safeguards approach proposed in this paper would be best suited as an addition to existing safeguard strategies. Real-time gamma ray detection for process monitoring would be beneficial to a reprocessing facility and could be done with commercially available detectors.

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Associated Project(s):

  • Development of a Mass Verification Method For UREX+3a NPEX product Using an Active Well Coincidence Counter

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