Nuclear safeguards verification of spent fuel in MYRRHA

Sophie Grape
Sophie Grape. Photo: Camilla Thulin.

The Swedish Research Council has on October 31, 2019 decided on the applications to be awarded grants within New nuclear technology. The Department of Physics and Astronomy is granted 5 600 000 SEK for the period 2019-2022 for one project grant and one starting grant.

Project description

Project title: Nuclear safeguards verification of spent fuel in MYRRHA
Main applicant: Sophie Grape, Division of Applied Nuclear Physics
Grant amount: 2 400 000 SEK for the period 2019-2020
Funder: New nuclear technology starting grant from The Swedish Research Council

The MYRRHA accelerator-driven system will be constructed at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre's (SCK•CEN) site in Mol. The scientific motivations are many, and MYRRHA is seen as a Generation IV test facility for innovative fuels and materials. The reactor will be cooled by lead-bismuth eutectic, the fuel will have a high fissile content, and the planned fuel manufacture and waste separation activities will require substantial fuel reprocessing. All these factors pose considerable challenges from a safeguards point of view. In order to ensure that nuclear safeguards inspectorates are able to verify non-diversion of nuclear material, it is of utmost importance to develop new safeguards verification methodologies for MYRRHA fuel.

Existing safeguards methodologies rely on measurements using a single assay technique in order to verify the measured material. In the proposed project, we plan to construct an analysis methodology taking advantage of machine learning algorithms, that simultaneously evaluates multiple signatures from the fuel in order to determine fuel properties such as initial enrichment, burnup, cooling time, fissile mass and possible diversion of nuclear material in Generation IV nuclear fuel. We propose to validate the developed safeguards methodology using previously collected experimental data from light water reactor (LWR) fuels. The results will form the conceptual basis for safeguards especially developed for the implementation of Generation IV systems.