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Criticality Characteristics of Mixtures of Plutonium, Silicon Dioxide, Nevada Tuff, and Water

Rene Sanchez, William Myers, David Hayes, Robert Kimpland, Peter Jaegers, Richard Paternoster, Stephen Rojas, Richard Anderson, William Stratton

Nuclear Science and Engineering

Volume 129 / Number 2 / June 1998 / Pages 187-194


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The parameters that determine when critical mixtures of 239Pu, SiO2, and water and mixtures of 239Pu, Nevada tuff, and water are capable of sustaining an increasing neutron chain reaction as may be caused by a positive void coefficient at constant temperature are established. A single canister is considered that is loaded with up to 75 kg of 239Pu. A survey of critical spherical mixtures of plutonium, SiO2, tuff, and water at constant temperature is created and these results are examined to determine the mixtures that might be autocatalytic. Regions of criticality instability are identified that have the possibility of autocatalytic power behavior. A positive void coefficient is possible for a very limited range of wet systems.

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