SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 14 December 2018

Practical Considerations for Reactor Spectrum Characterization: Lessons Learned


The Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR) at Sandia National Laboratories provides experimenters with a unique platform for irradiations. Its central cavity is wide enough to accommodate spectrum-modifying materials, commonly referred to as buckets. The addition of hydrogenous moderators, such as polyethylene or water, can cause considerable thermalization of the free field neutron spectrum. Conversely, thick annular regions of strong, thermal absorbers, such as boron or cadmium, create a faster neutron spectrum inside. Similarly, the gamma-ray fluence can be attenuated by adding high-Z materials or enhanced through radiative capture in cadmium or gadolinium. Novel configurations of buckets allow simultaneous neutron energy spectrum modification and gamma-ray attenuation. As such, different radiation environments can exist at ACRR’s core centerline. Recent efforts have produced detailed characterizations of several neutron- and gamma-ray spectrum-modifying buckets for the ACRR central cavity, including: the free field; the 44-in.-tall lead-boron carbide bucket (fast neutron, attenuated photon); the polyethylene-lead-graphite bucket (thermalized neutrons, attenuated photon); and the Cd-Poly bucket (cadmium polyethylene lined bucket used to enhance photon production). Dedicated opportunities to perform multiple characterizations occurred somewhat infrequently, which afforded the authors the ability to hone techniques for performing these tests. Each neutron spectrum characterization generally followed both ASTM E720, Standard Guide for Selection and Use of Neutron Sensors for Determining Neutron Spectra Employed in Radiation-Hardness Testing of Electronics, and ASTM E721, Standard Guide for Determining Neutron Energy Spectra from Neutron Sensors for Radiation-Hardness Testing of Electronics. This paper presents some practical lessons learned throughout these characterizations—both experimental and computational.

Author Information

Quirk, Thomas
Applied Nuclear Technologies, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, US
Parma, Edward
Applied Nuclear Technologies, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM, US
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Developed by Committee: E10
Pages: 361–368
DOI: 10.1520/STP160820170084
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-7662-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-7661-4