Alternatives for helium-3 in multiplicity counters

James H. Ely, Edward R. Siciliano, Azaree T. Lintereur, Martyn T. Swinhoe

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Alternatives to helium-3 are being actively pursued due to the shortage and rising costs of helium-3. For safeguards applications, there are a number of ongoing investigations to find alternatives that provide the same capability in a cost-effective manner. One of the greatest challenges is to find a comparable alternative for multiplicity counters, since they require high efficiency and short collection or die-away times. Work has been progressing on investigating three commercially available alternatives for high efficiency multiplicity counters: boron trifluoride (BF3) filled proportional tubes, boron-lined proportional tubes, and lithium fluoride with zinc sulfide coated light guides. The baseline multiplicity counter used for the investigation is the Epithermal Neutron Multiplicity Counter with 121 helium-3 filled tubes at 10 atmosphere pressure, which is a significant capability to match. The primary tool for the investigation has been modeling and simulation using the Monte Carlo N-Particle eXtended (MCNPX) radiation transport program, with experiments to validate the models. To directly calculate the coincidence rates in boron-lined (and possibly other) detectors, the MCNPX code has been enhanced to allow the existing coincidence tally to be used with energy deposition rather than neutron capture reactions. This allows boron-lined detectors to be modeled more accurately. Variations of tube number and diameter along with variations in the amount of inter-tube moderator have been conducted for the BF3 and boron-lined cases. Tube pressure was investigated for BF3 , up to two atmospheres, as well as optimal boron thickness in the boron-lined tubes. The lithium fluoride was modeled as sheets of material with light guides in between, and the number and thickness of the sheets investigated. The amount of light guide, which in this case doubles as a moderator, was also optimized. The results of these modeling and simulation optimization investigations are described and results presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6410457
Pages (from-to)510-514
Number of pages5
JournalIEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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