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Statistical Approaches for Pebble Bed Reactor Operations and Safeguards

by Cory B Ball, Philip W Gibbs
Publication Type
Conference Paper
Book Title
INMM & ESARDA Joint Annual Meeting Proceedings
Publication Date
Page Number
Publisher Location
Mount Laurel, New Jersey, United States of America
Conference Name
2023 INMM & ESARDA Joint Annual Meeting
Conference Location
Vienna, Austria
Conference Sponsor
International Nuclear Materials Management and European Safeguards Research & Development Association
Conference Date

The design of pebble bed reactors (PBRs) and their method of operation align more closely with statistical approaches used in manufacturing and process control than traditional safeguards statistical approaches. The reason is PBRs will employ a nondestructive assay (NDA) measurement (burnup measurement system [BUMS]) that is part of the fuel handling system supporting discharge decisions in addition to the reactor code which monitor performance. The integration of these two approaches provides the opportunity to monitor reactor performance statistically for both operations and safeguards in ways not achievable using other reactor designs. For light water reactors (LWRs), knowledge about reactor code performance in predicting irradiated special nuclear material (SNM) content historically was only achieved from special measurement campaigns or from fuel reprocessing. Conversely, through statistical comparison of the BUMS with the reactor code-predicted values, PBRs can achieve this in real time. The resulting SNM distribution is an indicator of reactor performance because factors such as transit time and path of the pebble fuel through the reactor determine the plutonium production and uranium depletion. By analyzing the predicted and measured values, opportunities exist to adjust operating parameters, fuel design, and other characteristics to optimize performance and fuel utilization. From a safeguards perspective, this approach also provides the information necessary to validate declared values and evaluate whether the reactor is being operated as expected. This paper outlines statistical approaches for PBRs that can be used to support both operations and safeguards.