Characterization of the Fast-Neutron Irradiator and the Fast-Flux Tube Irradiation Fixtures at the Pennsylvania State Breazeale Reactor

Maksat Kuatbek, Bruce D. Pierson, Stephanie M. Lyons, Marek Flaska, Amanda M. Johnsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accurate knowledge of the neutron spectrum at a nuclear research reactor is a prerequisite for planning irradiation experiments, as well as for evaluating irradiation exposure results. The neutron-flux spectrum in the fast-neutron irradiator (FNI) and the fast-flux tube (FFT) irradiation fixtures at the Pennsylvania State Breazeale Reactor (PSBR) were characterized using the multi-foil neutron activation method. These irradiation fixtures make use of graded shielding to produce unique neutron fields. Multiple foil sets were irradiated in the fixtures with different exposure times and reactor powers to understand the stability over a wide range of operating conditions. Measured results were evaluated against a MCNP6 simulation to produce a measurement-informed neutron flux-energy spectrum for each fixture using STAYSL_PNNL. Simulated estimates of the FNI fixture, a newer fixture (∼25 years old), demonstrated excellent agreement with measured results; the FFT did not. Thermal neutron measurements from the FFT suggest there is additional thermal leakage not captured in the simulation model. Possible explanations for the discrepancy include burn-out or degradation (i.e., micro-cracking, gaps, etc.) in the boral and cadmium liners over the lifetime of the fixture (∼40 years old).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112505
JournalNuclear Engineering and Design
StatePublished - Nov 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • General Materials Science
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Mechanical Engineering

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