Development of a High Fluence Neutron Source for Nondestructive Characterization of Nuclear Waste

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We are addressing the need to measure nuclear wastes, residues, and spent fuel in order to process these for final disposition. For example, TRU wastes destined for the WIPP must satisfy extensive characterization criteria outlined in the Waste Acceptance Criteria, the Quality Assurance Program Plan, and the Performance Demonstration Plan. Similar requirements exist for spent fuel and residues. At present, no nondestructive assay (NDA) instrumentation is capable of satisfying all of the PDP test cycles (particularly for Remote-Handled TRU waste). One of the primary methods for waste assay is by active neutron interrogation. The objective of this project is to ... continued below

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Pickrell, Mark M. December 31, 1999.

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We are addressing the need to measure nuclear wastes, residues, and spent fuel in order to process these for final disposition. For example, TRU wastes destined for the WIPP must satisfy extensive characterization criteria outlined in the Waste Acceptance Criteria, the Quality Assurance Program Plan, and the Performance Demonstration Plan. Similar requirements exist for spent fuel and residues. At present, no nondestructive assay (NDA) instrumentation is capable of satisfying all of the PDP test cycles (particularly for Remote-Handled TRU waste). One of the primary methods for waste assay is by active neutron interrogation. The objective of this project is to improve the capability of all active neutron systems by providing a higher intensity neutron source (by about a factor of 1,000) for essentially the same cost, power, and space requirements as existing systems. This high intensity neutron source is an electrostatically confined (IEC) plasma device. The IEC is a symmetric sphere that was originally developed in the 1960s as a possible fusion reactor. It operates as DT neutron generator. Although it is not likely that this device will scale to fusion reactor levels, previous experiments1 have demonstrated a neutron yield of 2 x 1010 neutrons/second on a table-top device that can be powered from ordinary laboratory circuits (9 kilowatts). Subsequently, the IEC physics has been extensively studied at the University of Illinois and other locations. We have established theoretically the basis for scaling the output up to 1 x 1011 neutrons/second. In addition, IEC devices have run for cumulative times approaching 10,000 hours, which is essential for practical application to NDA. They have been operated in pulsed and continuous mode. The essential features of the IEC plasma neutron source, compared to existing sources of the same cost, size and power consumption, are: Table 1: Present and Target Operating Parameters for Small Neutron Generators Parameter Present IEC Target or Already Proven Neutron Yield (n/s) 108 1011 Lifetime (hours) 500 10,000 Operation Pulsed Pulsed or steady state Nominal cost $k $100k Same Power 1kW 25kW 5. Methods and Results: The design of a conventional IEC source is deceptively simple. The basic system is a spherical vacuum chamber containing a spherical grid. The grid is raised to a high negative potential. A breakdown develops between the chamber wall and the grid, and this plasma becomes a source of positive deuterium and tritium ions. These ions are accelerated to the center of the vacuum chamber sphere where they may collide. The ion energy may achieve the full potential of the accelerating grid. If the grid is raised to a nominal 100 kV, the D-T fusion cross section becomes large and the neutron production proceeds. The IEC concept was initially developed in the 1950s and 1960s by R. L. Hirsch and collaborators. It was originally proposed as a possible plasma fusion energy device. The idea was initially presented to the DOE with a table-top experiment using ordinary office power. That system produced in excess of 106 neutrons per second. Although the IEC was not favored for a future electric energy generator, the application as a potential neutron source was clearly established. Using nominal laboratory power and a modest sized sphere, Hirsch was able to achieve a maximum neutron yield of 2xl010 neutrons per second (in D-T)in the mid 1960s.

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  • Other Information: PBD: 31 Dec 1999

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  • December 31, 1999

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  • Dec. 3, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

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  • April 21, 2016, 6:22 p.m.

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Pickrell, Mark M. Development of a High Fluence Neutron Source for Nondestructive Characterization of Nuclear Waste, report, December 31, 1999; New Mexico. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc788458/: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.