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M.R. Sternat, W.S. Charlton, T.S. Nichols, R. Webb, and D.M. Beals, "Reactor Physics Modeling of Spent Nuclear Research Reactor Fuel for SNM Attribution and Nuclear Forensics," Proceedings of the 51st Annual Meeting for the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management, Baltimore, Maryland, July 11-15, 2010.


Nuclear research reactors are the least safeguarded type of reactor; in some cases this may be attributed to low risk and in most cases it is due to difficulty from dynamic operation. Research reactors vary greatly in size, fuel type, enrichment, power and burnup providing a significant challenge to any standardized safeguard system. If a whole fuel assembly was interdicted, based on geometry and other traditional forensics work, one could identify the material's origin fairly accurately. If the material has been dispersed or reprocessed, in-depth reactor physics models may be used to help with the identification. Should there be a need to attribute research reactor fuel material, the Savannah River National Laboratory would perform radiochemical analysis of samples of the material as well as other non-destructive measurements. In depthreactor physics modeling would then be performed to compare to these measured results in an attempt to associate the measured results with various reactor parameters. Several reactor physics codes are being used and considered for this purpose, including: MONTEBURNS/ORIGEN/MCNP5, CINDER/MCNPX and WIMS. In attempt to identify reactorcharacteristics, such as time since shutdown, burnup, or power, various isotopes are used. Complexities arise when the inherent assumptions embedded in different reactor physics codes handle the isotopes differently and may quantify them to different levels of accuracy. A technical approach to modeling spent research reactor fuel begins at the assembly level upon acquiring detailed information of the reactor to be modeled. A single assembly is run using periodic boundary conditions to simulate an infinite lattice which may be repeatedly burned to produce input fuel isotopic vectors of various burnups for a core level model. A core level model will then be constructed using the assembly level results as inputs for the specific fuel shuffling pattern in an attempt to establish an equilibrium cycle. The core level results may then be compared to the radiochemistry results from the dissolved fuel samples and a decision whether further more in-depth modeling should be performed. The SRNL is in the process of analyzing multiple research reactor fuels to determine the best means to provideforensic data for attribution and assess codes and modeling methods for attribution. As several fuel samples are analyzed, this work will allow improved SNM forensics of spent research reactor fuel. This will enable the establishment of aresearch reactor fuel database of SNM materials, and allow an attempt of an inverse analysis if research reactor material is diverted and seized. 


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Associated Project(s):

  • Uncertainty Quantification for Nuclear Forensic Model Computations

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