Neutron Tomography Using Mobile Neutron Generators for Assessment of Void Distributions in Thermal Hydraulic Test Loops

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Abstract

Detailed knowledge of the lateral distribution of steam (void) and water in a nuclear fuel assembly is of great value for nuclear reactor operators and fuel manufacturers, with consequences for both reactor safety and economy of operation. Therefore, nuclear relevant two-phase flows are being studied at dedicated thermal-hydraulic test loop, using two-phase flow systems ranging from simplified geometries such as heated circular pipes to full scale mock-ups of nuclear fuel assemblies. Neutron tomography (NT) has been suggested for assessment of the lateral distribution of steam and water in such test loops, motivated by a good ability of neutrons to penetrate the metallic structures of metal pipes and nuclear fuel rod mock-ups, as compared to e.g. conventional X-rays, while the liquid water simultaneously gives comparatively good contrast. However, these stationary test loops require the measurement setup to be mobile, which is often not the case for NT setups. Here, it is acknowledged that fast neutrons of 14 MeV from mobile neutron generators constitute a viable option for a mobile NT system. We present details of the development of neutron tomography for this purpose at the division of Applied Nuclear Physics at Uppsala University. Our concept contains a portable neutron generator, exploiting the fusion reaction of deuterium and tritium, and a detector with plastic scintillator elements designed to achieveadequate spatial and energy resolution, all mounted in a light-weight frame without collimators or bulky moderation to allow for a mobile instrument that can be moved about the stationary thermal hydraulic test sections. The detector system stores event-to-event pulse-height information to allow for discrimination based on the energy deposition in the scintillator elements. Experimentalresults from the tomographic assessment of axially symmetric test objectsare shown, as well as simulation results from a scaled up version of the instrument for nonsymmetrical objects in quarter fuel-bundle size objects. In conclusion, the application of tomography on inch-wide vertical pipes has been experimentally demonstrated and simulation results indicate that tomography of the void distribution in nonsymmetrical vertical flows in quarter BWR fuel bundles is also feasible.

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Andersson, P., Bjelkenstedt, T., Sundén, E. A., Sjöstrand, H., & Jacobsson-Svärd, S. (2015). Neutron Tomography Using Mobile Neutron Generators for Assessment of Void Distributions in Thermal Hydraulic Test Loops. In Physics Procedia (Vol. 69, pp. 202–209). Elsevier B.V. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phpro.2015.07.029

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