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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P008062/1
Title: Digital fast neutron assay of uranium
Principal Investigator: Joyce, Professor MJ
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Engineering
Organisation: Lancaster University
Scheme: Overseas Travel Grants (OTGS)
Starts: 01 December 2016 Ends: 31 May 2017 Value (£): 16,901
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
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Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
It is well known that uranium has a special property whereby when configured in a particular arrangement and concentration it can sustain a nuclear chain reaction from which a great deal of energy can be derived. It is this property that has led it to be used exclusively throughout the world as the fuel for nuclear power reactors. However, perhaps less well appreciated is the fact that in its raw, un-irradiated state prior to use in a reactor uranium is quite benign in a radioactive sense, emitting relatively little radiation that can be of use in terms of characterisation. This is extremely important because whilst its use in reactors provides much electricity for peaceful uses, it is essential that the amount of uranium in existence is quantified and recorded so that diversion of it for illicit uses is detected. Often an important requirement of this activity is to be able to detect and assess quantities of uranium remotely, without touching it so that commercial activities associated with the production of fuel for reactors etc. can continue unhindered and so that the assessment is quick and effective. The existing detection medium for this purpose is an isotope of helium gas, 3He, which is now in short supply and very expensive which relies on the detection of slow neutrons.

In this project we intend to explore the use of fast neutrons with a different detector technology, organic scintillators, for the assessment of uranium compounds that are highly enriched in 235U and 233U. To carry out this research it is essential that we transport our equipment and expertise to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee in the United States because this laboratory is one of the only places in the world that combines access to these materials with resident world-leading expertise in their assessment. Of particular note to this travel request is that it will enable access to enriched levels of 235U not possible anywhere else combined with the UK's ADRIANA detector system that is also unique in the world. Further it will enable 233U to be explored in quantities not possible anywhere else that is essential to exploring materials security associated with the thorium nuclear fuel cycle.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.lancs.ac.uk