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Startup of the Fission Converter Epithermal Neutron Irradiation Facility at the MIT Reactor

Thomas H. Newton, Jr., Kent J. Riley, Peter J. Binns, Gordon E. Kohse, Lin-Wen Hu, Otto K. Harling

Nuclear Technology

Volume 139 / Number 2 / August 2002 / Pages 175-183


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A new epithermal neutron irradiation facility, based on a fission converter assembly placed in the thermal column outside the reactor core, has been put into operation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Research Reactor (MITR). This facility was constructed to provide a high-intensity, forward-directed beam for use in neutron capture therapy with an epithermal flux of [approximately equal to]1010 n/cm2s at the medical room entrance with negligible fast neutron and gamma-ray contamination. The fission converter assembly consists of 10 or 11 MITR fuel elements placed in an aluminum tank and cooled with D2O. Thermal-hydraulic criteria were established based on heat deposition calculations. Various startup tests were performed to verify expected neutronic and thermal-hydraulic behavior. Flow testing showed an almost flat flow distribution across the fuel elements with <5% bypass flow. The total reactivity change caused by operation of the facility was measured at 0.014 ± 0.002% K/K. Thermal power produced by the facility was measured to be 83.1 ± 4.2 kW. All of these test results satisfied the thermal-hydraulic safety criteria. In addition, radiation shielding design measurements were made that verified design calculations for the neutronic performance.

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