A centre for Advanced Digital Radiometric Instrumentation for Applied Nuclear Activities (ADRIANA)

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Engineering

Abstract

Facilities associated with nuclear activities, such as reactors, radioactive substances, wastes and processing systems can often be characterised by the radiation that they emit as a result of the processes going on with them, or residual contamination. This characterisation is very important because it is often impossible to enter such facilities due to the risk to health and, conversely, without characterising them we often do not know the extent of the risk either. Fortunately, because two of the most common forms of radiation - neutrons and gamma rays - are very penetrating, it is usually possible to carry out the necessary measurements without needing to intrude on the facilities under assessment. Indeed, a great deal can be learnt from non-intrusive, non-destructive assessments of these radiation fields.

Until recently, the accepted techniques for assessing gamma-ray and neutron environments were still based on technologies developed at the dawn of the nuclear industry, in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Whilst adequate, these techniques were wholly analogue and as a result only a small proportion of the feasible assessments developed in the laboratory could be transported to industrial environments because extensive setting-up and configuration is needed, and they are not directly compatible with computer systems. Over the last 10 years, work at Lancaster and Liverpool Universities has focussed on digitizing these techniques, which is not easy because the speed with which the radiations interact with detecting systems is extremely fast, and often too fast for current electronic processing systems. The success of this research has enabled environments to be characterized in real-time and without the need for extensive set-up procedures that was the case for analogue apparatus, and in particular has resulted in a number new ways to image nuclear environments in terms of the radiation they emit. Of particular interest to this proposal is that it has become feasible to multiplex a much wider range of detector systems than was previously the case, with many new assay techniques being postulated if these larger, more sophisticated detector systems can be constructed for industrial applications.

Because such detector systems are expensive, there are few if any of a suitable type available in the world despite the potential they hold for analysis in power production, decommissioning, cancer therapy and metrology. In this proposal we intend to construct several of these systems - a gamma-ray spectroscopy system, a neutron imaging system and a gamma-ray imaging system - to establish a cutting-edge group of facilities that can be used by researchers in the UK with an interest in these techniques. This will allow the benefits of digital radiation assay to be brought to bear on a wide range of applications without the need for every researcher to try to fund the expensive equipment necessary, and will be an efficient basis on which to continue Britain's lead in this important area.

Planned Impact

Operational requirements in new nuclear build: This proposal is made at a critical time associated with significant investment in nuclear energy facilities in the UK at Hinkley Point, the most significant development for 20 years, when specific apparatus is being selected and at a time of worldwide interest from the nuclear instrumentation community as to the systems that might benefit this renaissance. The impact of the research is likely to be in the influence over the design of next-generation field instrumentation, radiation protection measures and the way in which nuclear environments are characterised and assessed, and perhaps most critically with regard to plans & related policies.

Security & safeguards: The industrial nuclear sector associated with security & safeguards is an important area of potential impact for this investment. For example, the isotope 240Pu (a ubiquitous component of plutonium material by which total plutonium content can be assessed) emits fast neutrons as a result of spontaneous fission. These can be used to assess the quantity of plutonium present. This is particularly useful in nuclear safeguards to prevent the illicit diversion of direct-use nuclear material from nuclear process streams. It is also relevant in nuclear security to detect the illicit transport of nuclear materials.

3He replacement: The assay of mixed field environments is often reliant on the use of 3He gas, due to its large neutron capture cross-section, long-term stability and excellent gamma-ray rejection characteristics. Due to the limited production of this gas there is now a world shortage of 3He. At ~$2000 per litre, it is estimated that to resource just safeguards would cost ~ $12m at current rates, with all stock exhausted in 5 years . Alternatives to 3He, such as boron trifluoride (10BF3), are too hazardous for use and transport in many industrial environments. Other replacement possibilities are too far off in research terms to make a significant impact on this important area in the timescale. Fast scintillators, processed digitally, are the only option to meet this medium-term requirement for neutron detection. This investment has significant potential to make a profound impact in this area: for example, enriched uranium content is often assayed via neutron interrogation with 3He which is highly compatible for replacement with fast scintillators whilst the assay of plutonium material in spent fuel streams could be readily investigated with digital fast scintillators. This is highly complementary to the gamma-ray imaging capability established under this project.

Nuclear safety & post-accident recovery: There are a variety of other environments, such as those associated with operating pressurised water reactors for power and propulsion, where advanced, digital radiation characterisation instrumentation has a significiant role to play, particularly for imaging. We also envisage significant impact could accrue from the outputs of our research in nuclear safety and in post-accident assessment of the integrity of the pressure vessels of stricken reactors, particularly given its merits of stand-off, non-intrusiveness and real-time discrimination of neutron- and gamma-emitting materials.

Coincidence-based assay: this has been used for many years in both neutron and gamma-ray assay but not real-time or in-situ. Where these systems can be installed they have the potential to impact power operations and post-use, post-accident. Tthe distinction between a true coincidence of two fission neutrons emitted by the same nucleus, and the many alternative scenarios, such as a neutron arising from an (alpha, n) reaction, is made on statistical grounds and can be significantly improved upon with digital systems.

Publications

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Joyce M (2016) Fast neutron tomography with real-time pulse-shape discrimination in organic scintillation detectors in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment

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Joyce M (2019) High-order angular correlation of californium-252 fission neutrons and the effect of detector cross-talk in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment

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Parker HMO (2019) Passive, non-intrusive assay of depleted uranium. in Journal of hazardous materials

 
Description 1) That low-enriched uranium can be measured via the detection of single neutron events as opposed to the detection of correlated neutrons.
2) We have measured the fast neutron Rossi-alpha and Feynman-Y distributions for the first time.
3) We have also measured the triple and quadruple coincidence angular distributions of neutrons from 235U and 252Cf for the first time.
4) We have measured the angular correlation from the 'third' neutron in fission emission of neutrons, and also estimated the role of neutron crosstalk in detectors on the measurement of this phenomenon.
Exploitation Route We have a number of awards in plan and ongoing collaborations with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Parajito Scientific Corp., Sellafield Ltd., Cavendish Nuclear and CCFE as a result.
Sectors Education,Energy,Environment

 
Description Our findings have been used to determine whether the same apparatus might be used in an allied application in the clean up of soils at nuclear legacy sites. We have also learned that our findings from previous research project(s) have been adopted by an industrial collaboration for use in depth profiling of radioactivity on nuclear legacy sites, as part of an active testing competition. Unrelated research into neutron tomography has led to an SME (Hybrid Instruments Ltd.) to win and complete an Innovate UK project.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description EPSRC Overseas Travel Grant
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 08/2016
 
Description Innovate UK Energy Game Changers
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2017 
End 11/2018
 
Description Equipment sharing with UKAEA Culham 
Organisation EURATOM/CCFE Fusion Association
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have loaned some of the ADRIANA equipment to users at the CCFE fusion site and this is being investigated for use in characterising MAST. Some money was made available to support the costs of a placement student to assist with this deployment in the summer of 2017.
Collaborator Contribution CCFE at Culham supervised the placement activity and are working on developing the use of the equipment for the MAST application.
Impact For example: 'Insitu detection of plutonium in soil', TIGHE Christopher, ANDREW Jeremy and JOYCE Malcolm, oral paper #225, IEEE ANIMMA, Liege, Belgium, June 2017.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Research collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee United States 
Organisation Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The equipment made available via the ADRIANA grant has been transported to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for joint, collaborative measurements to be made there in their laboratories. Our contribution was the loan of the equipment and the secondment of researchers to ORNL in the US for 2 weeks.
Collaborator Contribution The partners (ORNL) made available their laboratories and their expertise and radioactive materials for analysis and use.
Impact For example: 'Real-time determination of Rossi-? distribution, active fast neutron multiplicity, neutron angular distribution and neutron spectrum using organic liquid scintillators', paper #2434, N-09-2, R. Sarwar, V. Astromskas, C. H. Zimmerman, S. Croft and M. J. Joyce, IEEE NSS 2017, Atlanta.
Start Year 2016
 
Title dsd 
Description We patented the fast neutron / gamma-ray tomography technique. 
IP Reference dfdd 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2015
Licensed Yes
Impact The research has led to an Innovate UK grant to sponsor the development of the technique for monitoring oil pipelines.