Knowledge of the radiological state of processes and equipment of a nuclear facility is essential to supervise a wide variety of sensitive tasks: building of intervention scenarios in order to optimize maintenance or dismantling operations, optimization of waste categorization, monitoring the effectiveness of decontamination processes, monitoring of nuclear facility decommissioning, etc.
In order to meet the diversity of the issues involved, the CEA has developed in situ radiological characterization methods and techniques to acquire reliable radiological data. The data gathered is necessary to build robust radiological models which can be used as input data for dismantling studies. Over the last 30 years, the main nuclear measurement techniques, such as gamma imaging and gamma spectrometry, have been widely deployed by the CEA on many facilities under dismantling and more recently, on the Phénix nuclear power plant. Phénix was a small-scale prototype of a sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor, located at the Marcoule nuclear site. These techniques have been implemented on this reactor in order to meet the increased need for radiological knowledge to prepare for future dismantling operations following its final shutdown in 2009.
This paper will focus on the description of three radiological characterization methods which take advantage of advanced nuclear measurement techniques. For each method, an example of a specific application on the Phénix reactor will be presented. Firstly, the so-called “gamma scanning” method will be explained. The objective of this method is to determine the activity profile of equipment based on collimated gamma spectrometry measurements with compact probes like CdZnTe. This method was applied to a neutron shielding of the reactor core to estimate the 60Co activity profile. Then the measured activities helped to validate the theoretical activities resulting from neutron activation calculations. Secondly, this paper will focus on the interest of combining different measurement techniques such as gamma imaging, gamma spectrometry and collimated/uncollimated dose rate mapping to characterize complex equipment or processes. In this case, a specific methodology was developed to define the radiological state of a shielded cell used for the processing of irradiated nuclear fuels. Finally, an isotopic characterization technique using a high purity germanium detector will be discussed. This technique was applied to a non-irradiated fertile fuel sub-assembly in order to determine the level of uranium enrichment. The processing was carried out by three types of analysis: two automated, with the MGA-U and IGA software, and one manual.