Criticality experiments with 235 U (metal and hydride) and 239 Pu (metal) were performed during the Manhattan Project. Results from these experiments provided necessary information for the success of the Manhattan Project. These experiments have been previously described in compilations made after the Manhattan Project, 1-3 but those works are either lacking in technical details or are not publicly available. This work aims to provide detailed information while showcasing the enduring impact of these experiments 75 years after they were performed. Furthermore, we use modern computational methods embodied in the MCNP6 code and ENDF data to analyze and interpret these historic measurements. The world's first four criticality accidents are also discussed, as lessons learned from these helped shape the field of criticality experiments.
Stochastic fluctuations of the neutron population within a nuclear reactor are typically prevented by operating the core at a sufficient power, since a deterministic (i.e., exactly predictable) behavior of the neutron population is required by automatic safety systems to detect unwanted power excursions. In order to characterize the reactor operating conditions at which the fluctuations vanish, an experiment was designed and took place in 2017 at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Reactor Critical Facility. This experiment however revealed persisting fluctuations and striking patchy spatial patterns in neutron spatial distributions. Here we report these experimental findings, interpret them by a stochastic modeling based on branching random walks, and extend them using a “numerical twin” of the reactor core. Consequences on nuclear safety will be discussed.
The Flattop critical assembly was built and operated from 1958 through 2004 at the Pajarito Site (Technical Area-18), home to the Los Alamos Critical Experiments Facility. Flattop was disassembled in 2005 and refurbished over the course of 3 years. In 2008, Flattop was installed in the National Criticality Experiments Research Center (NCERC) located in the Device Assembly Facility at the Nevada National Security Site. Startup of Flattop with a uranium core occurred in 2011. This paper details the first 10 years of Flattop operations at NCERC (2011-present).
Comet is a general-purpose, heavy-duty, vertical-lift assembly designed for flexibility in conducting a variety of critical experiments. It is currently located at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center (NCERC) in Nevada. In the past, Comet resided at Technical Area-18 in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as part of the Los Alamos Critical Experiments Facility (LACEF). The Comet assembly was relocated to NCERC in 2008 and became fully operational in June of 2011. The first critical experiment performed on Comet at NCERC was a verification of one of the previous configurations of theZeus experiment series. Over the next 10 years, many additional experiments followed including other Zeus configurations as well as completely new designs. This paper discusses the Comet vertical-lift assembly, the transition from LACEF to NCERC, and a selection of experiments that have been performed on Comet during its first 10 years of operation at NCERC.
The work presented in this paper focuses on the first 10 years (2011)(2012)(2013)(2014)(2015)(2016)(2017)(2018)(2019)(2020) of radiation test object (RTO) operations at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center. RTOs are subcritical configurations of special nuclear material that are built by hand. These configurations are utilized for benchmark experiments, detector testing/characterization, and training. An overview of the types of measurements used in RTO operations is given as well as a history of RTO operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1944-2011.
Planet is a vertical-lift assembly machine currently located at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center (NCERC) at the Nevada National Security Site. In the past, Planet resided at Technical Area-18 in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as part of the Los Alamos Critical Experiments Facility (LACEF). Following the de-inventorying of LACEF, the Planet assembly was relocated to NCERC in 2008 and became fully operational in June of 2011. The Class Foils experiment, which involves stacking highly enriched uranium foils to obtain a critical configuration, was the first critical experiment performed on Planet. As a major component of the Nuclear Criticality Safety Class taught for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Nuclear Criticality Safety Program, the Class Foils experiment allows personnel from all over the DOE complex to handle nuclear material and to complete the approach to critical safely and successfully. This paper describes the Planet vertical assembly and recent engineering upgrade and a selection of the experiments that have been performed on Planet since its transition to NCERC 10 years ago.
The work presented in this paper focuses on the first 10 years (2011)(2012)(2013)(2014)(2015)(2016)(2017)(2018)(2019)(2020) of Godiva IV operations at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center (NCERC). Godiva IV is a fast burst critical assembly constructed of approximately 65 kg of highly enriched uranium fuel alloyed with 1.5% molybdenum for strength. Godiva is one of the last such critical assemblies in the United States and can be used for studies of super-prompt-critical behavior as well as irradiations and demonstrations. An overview of the startup of Godiva IV at NCERC is given followed by a summary of the experiments performed utilizing Godiva IV over the first 10 years of operation at NCERC.
scite is a Brooklyn-based startup that helps researchers better discover and understand research articles through Smart Citations–citations that display the context of the citation and describe whether the article provides supporting or contrasting evidence. scite is used by students and researchers from around the world and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.