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Criticality of a 237Np Sphere

Rene Sanchez, David Loaiza, Robert Kimpland, David Hayes, Charlene Cappiello, Mark Chadwick

Nuclear Science and Engineering

Volume 158 / Number 1 / January 2008 / Pages 1-14


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A series of critical-mass experiments using a 6-kg neptunium sphere was performed on the Planet vertical-assembly machine at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The purpose of the experiments was to obtain a better estimate of the critical mass of 237Np. The configurations that were studied included surrounding the neptunium sphere with highly enriched uranium (HEU) shells as well as reflecting it with iron and polyethylene. An additional experiment using a 4.5-kg -phase plutonium sphere surrounded with HEU was performed to demonstrate how well the computer transport code and the existing cross-section data for uranium and plutonium could reproduce the experiment. For some of the configurations, the prompt-neutron decay constants at delayed critical were measured. These experiments provided an integral measurement of the cross sections for 237Np in the fast-energy and possibly in the intermediate-energy regions. The measured keff from these experiments was compared with the calculated keff from the Monte Carlo N-Particle (MCNP) transport code using ENDF/B-V and ENDF/B-VI and cross-section data evaluated by the Nuclear Theory and Applications group (T-16) at LANL. In all the neptunium experiments, the calculated keff values based on ENDF/B-VI data were ~1% lower than the experimental keff. After adjusting the cross sections for neptunium and 235U to match the bare neptunium/HEU experiment as well as Godiva keff criticality and spectra indexes, the MCNP code yielded a value of 57 ± 4 kg for the bare critical mass of 237Np.

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