NRL, INL researchers test sensors at TREAT

11 September 2018

In June, MIT Nuclear Reactor Lab (NRL) researchers have traveled to the Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) facility at Idaho National Lab (INL) to test proposed upgrades to TREAT’s nuclear instrumentation.

During the tests, three different types of sensors were positioned in the TREAT core in the same area where test fuel materials are placed. Two types were commercially available self-powered sensors – one sensitive to neutrons and the other sensitive to gamma rays. These sensors are powered using the electrical current produced by the nuclear reactions taking place in the sensor itself, removing the need for an external power source. The third type of sensor, micro-pocket fission detectors (MPFD), is a new type of neutron sensor, which is powered by a high voltage source.

The sensors were first tested in the MIT research reactor (MITR) at low power, then shipped to INL where they were tested at the TREAT facility at both similar constant and changing neutron and gamma intensities to observe how they responded. Once data at conditions comparable to the MITR tests were collected, the sensors underwent brief, intense power pulses ranging from 1,200 to 25,000 MW.

The sensor’s responses were benchmarked using a set of passive neutron exposure monitors in removable capsules positioned next to the sensors. To determine how many neutrons the sensors were exposed to, the radioactivity of the passive monitors was measured at INL’s gamma spectroscopy lab and then at the NRL.

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