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CNL Awards of Excellence/D.F. Torgerson Award: Stand off Neutron Detectors

D.F. Torgerson Award: Stand off Neutron Detectors

David Godin, Liqian Li, Bhaskar Sur, and Bryan van der Ende

For the development of stand-off nuclear reactor monitoring with neutron detectors for safeguards and non-proliferation applications.

In 2014, preliminary measurements were conducted with a large-area neutron detector at the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, outside of core shielding, up to 70 metres from the reactor core, demonstrating how the detected neutron signal correlates with NRU reactor operations. This initial innovative study led to significant work during the 2019-2021 period that underscored the potential for the technique and garnered the attention of utilities, vendors, university researchers, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That work in subsequent years demonstrated how relative changes in average neutron signal were directly related to changes in the isotopic composition of the reactor core. This is an innovative connection not previously made, that has strong potential as a tool for safeguarding nuclear material in nuclear reactors because it can be used to non-intrusively monitor changes in the inventory of nuclear material in the core of a nuclear reactor as it operates.

This work has transpired into two collaborative research agreements with McMaster University and the Royal Military College. Each of these agreements involve exploring further the reactor monitoring technique at the institutions’ respective reactors, while training highly qualified personnel at the graduate level.

All of the work in developing the reactor monitoring technique was developed in projects as part of the AECL Federal Nuclear Science and Technology (FNST) Work Plan, supporting the Government of Canada’s national and international security by improving Canadian global leadership in science and technology development to address issues in nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards.