- Jammes, C., et al.
Progress in the development of the neutron flux monitoring system of the French GF:N-IV SFR : simulations and experimental validations.
Ingår i: 2015 4Th International Conference On Advancements In Nuclear Instrumentation Measurement Methods And Their Applications (Animma). - : IEEE. - 9781479999187
- France has a long experience of about 50 years in designing, building and operating sodium-cooled fast reactors (SFR) such as RAPSODIE, PHENIX and SUPER PHENIX. Fast reactors feature the double capability of reducing nuclear waste and saving nuclear energy resources by burning actinides. Since this reactor type is one of those selected by the Generation IV International Forum, the French government asked, in the year 2006, CEA, namely the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, to lead the development of an innovative GEN-IV nuclear- fission power demonstrator. The major objective is to improve the safety and availability of an SFR. The neutron flux monitoring (NFM) system of any reactor must, in any situation, permit both reactivity control and power level monitoring from startup to full power. It also has to monitor possible changes in neutron flux distribution within the core region in order to prevent any local melting accident. The neutron detectors will have to be installed inside the reactor vessel because locations outside the vessel will suffer from severe disadvantages; radially the neutron shield that is also contained in the reactor vessel will cause unacceptable losses in neutron flux; below the core the presence of a core-catcher prevents from inserting neutron guides; and above the core the distance is too large to obtain decent neutron signals outside the vessel. Another important point is to limit the number of detectors placed in the vessel in order to alleviate their installation into the vessel. In this paper, we show that the architecture of the NFM system will rely on high-temperature fission chambers (HTFC) featuring wide-range flux monitoring capability. The definition of such a system is presented and the justifications of technological options are brought with the use of simulation and experimental results. Firstly, neutron-transport calculations allow us to propose two in-vessel regions, namely the above-core and under-core structures. We verify that they comply with the main objective, that is the neutron power and flux distribution monitoring. HTFC placed in these two regions can detect an inadvertent control rod withdrawal that is a postulated initiating event for safety demonstration. Secondly, we show that the HTFC reliability is enhanced thanks to a more robust physical design and the fact that it has been justified that the mineral insulation is insensitive to any increase in temperature. Indeed, the HTFC insulation is subject to partial discharges at high temperature when the electric field between their electrodes is greater than about 200 V/mm or so. These discharges give rise to signals similar to the neutron pulses generated by a fission chamber itself, which may bias the HTFC count rate at start-up only. However, as displayed in Figure 1, we have experimentally verified that one can discriminate neutron pulses from partial discharges using online estimation of pulse width. Thirdly, we propose to estimate the count rate of a HTFC using the third order cumulant of its signal that is described by a filtered Poisson process. For such a statistic process, it is known that any cumulant, also called cumulative moment, is proportional to the process intensity that is here the count rate of a fission chamber. One recalls that the so-called Campbelling mode of such a detector is actually based on the signal variance, which is the second-order cumulant as well. The use of this extended Campbelling mode based on the third-order cumulant will permit to ensure the HTFC response linearity over the entire neutron flux range using a signal processing technique that is simple enough to satisfy design constraints on electric devices important for nuclear safety. We also show that this technique, named high order Campbelling method (HOC), is significantly more robust than another technique based on the change in the HTFC filling gas, which consists in adding a few percent of nitrogen. Finally, we also present an experimental campaign devoted to the required calibration process of the so-called HOC method. The Campbelling results show a good agreement with the simple pulse counting estimation at low count rates. It is also shown that the HOC technique provides a linear estimation of the count rates at higher power levels as well.