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D.E. Burk , "Forward model calculations for determining isotopic compositions of materials used in a radiological dispersal device," M.S. Thesis, Texas A&M University, May 2005.


In the event that a radiological dispersal device (RDD) is detonated in the U.S. or near U.S. interests overseas, it will be crucial that the actors involved in the event can be identified quickly. If irradiated nuclear fuel is used as the dispersion material for the RDD, it will be beneficial for law enforcement officials to quickly identify where the irradiated nuclear fuel originated. One signature which may lead to the identification of the spent fuel origin is the isotopic composition of the RDD debris. The objective of this research was to benchmark a forward model methodology for predicting isotopic composition of spent nuclear fuel used in an RDD while at the same time optimizing the fidelity of the model to reduce computational time. The code used in this study was Monteburns-2.0. Monteburns is a Monte Carlo based neutronic code utilizing both MCNP and ORIGEN. The size of the burnup step used in Monteburns was tested and found to converge at a value of 3,000 MWd/MTU per step. To ensure a conservative answer, 2,500 MWd/MTU per step was used for the benchmarking process. The model fidelity ranged from the following: 2-dimensional pin cell, multiple radial-region pin cell, modified pin cell, 2D assembly, and 3D assembly.

The results showed that while the multi-region pin cell gave the highest level of
accuracy, the difference in uncertainty between it and the 2D pin cell (0.07% for 235U) did not warrant the additional computational time required. The computational time for the multiple radial-region pin cell was 7 times that of the 2D pin cell. For this reason, the 2D pin cell was used to benchmark the isotopics with data from other reactors. The reactors from which the methodology was benchmarked were Calvert Cliffs Unit #1, Takahama Unit #3, and Trino Vercelles. Calvert Cliffs is a pressurized water reactor (PWR) using Combustion Engineering 14×14 assemblies. Takahama is a PWR using Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 17×17 assemblies. Trino Vercelles is a PWR using non-standard lattice assemblies. The measured isotopic concentrations from all three of the reactors showed good agreement with the calculated values.

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