ORNL develops analysis method, validates global safegaurds

Analysis from the ORNL has allowed international reactor codes to be validated.
Analysis from the ORNL has allowed international reactor codes to be validated. | Courtesy of the Department of Energy

Researchers with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have been working to analyze used fuel assemblies to characterize them by composition in order to safely store them, the lab announced this week.

According to the announcement, the research project had resulted in the classification of approximately 50 isotopes and 16 elements within fuel assemblies with higher accuracy than has ever been achieved up until this time. With this set of data, researchers were able to validate safeguards used by the international nuclear industry and research communities.

“We created a benchmark for other nuclear analytical chemistry labs to follow for detailed used fuel characterizations,” Joe Giaquinto, of the Chemical Sciences Division at ORNL and lead researcher, said. “We can provide experimental data with a much improved degree of confidence that modelers can use to evaluate predicted results from their computational models. This gives them a more accurate data set when validating reactor codes based on the empirical data. We improved the experimental end of the validation process.”

Uncertainties that were decreased to make up approximately 1.5 to two percent of samples, prior tests of this kind often reported uncertainties up to 10 percent or higher. The ORNL team utilized high-resolution separation, high pressure levels and enriched standards from isotopes to be able to isolate different elements within samples.

This research was published in the Annals of Nuclear Energy.

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