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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S020411/1
Title: Thin neutron detector on a chip utilising silicon carbide
Principal Investigator: Monk, Dr SD
Other Investigators:
Cheneler, Dr D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Innovative Physics
Department: Engineering
Organisation: Lancaster University
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 October 2018 Ends: 31 March 2021 Value (£): 240,355
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
14 Sep 2018 UK Japan Civil Nuclear Research Programme Phase 5 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Following the Tohoku earthquake of the 11th of March 2011, the resultant tsunami initiated an INES level 7 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Following this event, debris was distributed in the bottom of the Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) and the housing areas within units 1-3 of the plant. This was a mixture of fuel, fissile material, activated isotopes and structural materials such as concrete. This presented both a hazard to the restoration teams and also a challenge in the longer term decommissioning and dismantling procedures. The particular challenges faced within the plant can be summarised as:

-An unknown mixture of fuel and activated waste emitting a variety of radiation types.

-An environment of extremes in temperature or humidity, and flooded in parts.

-High gamma background radiation - estimated to be up to 1,000 Gy/hr.

-Limited access in terms of physical size and weight for tools to aid remedial work.

-Limited access in terms of time due to worker dose limits.

Monitoring systems have confirmed that the fuel debris is not currently in a critical state, although this may change over time due to the fuel debris shape and water levels changing. There is significant interest in sub-criticality monitoring technology and criticality prevention technology to ensure this scenario does not occur however. In order to function within this harsh environment, instrumentation and electronics need to be radiation hardened beyond anything that exists currently. Operations within the plant require a detector that works in harsh environments - physical and radiological. Also required of such a device is that it be small and thin thus it can fit into small gaps or can be used atop a peripheral such as a robotic device which may be used to enter the reactor. The PCV's have been flooded in Fukushima leading to a preponderance of thermal neutrons and a temperature in excess of 60 degrees Celsius, thus both temperature and radiation tolerance is crucial. It is anticipated that background radiation within this reactor in everyday conditions will be of the order of 10^7 n/cm^2/s with a Gamma effective dose rate of between 1 to 100 mSv/hr. However, peaks are thought to reach approximately 10^13 n/cm^2/s and 1,000 Sv/hr.

The work to develop the Thin Neutron Detector System (TNDS) will encompass the development of a 3mm thick neutron detector using a Silicon Carbide fabrication process, deposition of a converter material, implementation of a signal processing chain to support the application to the Fukushima process and a development of concept of operations (CONOPS) for the use of the device in The Fukushima nuclear power plant.

This work will be undertaken over three sites internationally. This will begin with a Concept of Operations stage where the exact design specification will be determined via workshops in Kyoto. Once this has been completed, the practical work will begin at Lancaster University where proto-type versions of the detector on a chip device will be designed, constructed and tested using various software, and radiological sources. The work will continue at the SME 'Innovative Physics' based on the Isle of Wight, where in collaboration with the Japanese partner, a silicon carbide version of the detector will be designed and developed.

The final stage of the work involves the testing of the devices, beginning in Lancaster with a Cf-252 neutron source and CS-137 gamma sources. Assuming success, the detectors will be tested for extreme radiation tolerance at the Cobalt-60 irradiator at the Dalton Cumbrian Facility in Cumbria. The devices will then be tested in Japan at the 5MW Kyoto University Reactor (KUR) and the 100W Kyoto University Criticality Assembly (KUCA), before hopefully on to testing at the Fukushima site itself.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.lancs.ac.uk