The paper relates to the determination of the amount of nuclear material contained in a closed, concrete lined vault at the Aktau fast breeder reactor in Kazakhstan. This material had been disposed into the vault after examination in an experimental hot cell directly above the vault. In order to comply with IAEA Safeguards requirements it was necessary to determine the total quantities of nuclear materials — enriched uranium and plutonium — that were held with Kazakhstan. Although it was possible to determine the inventory of all of the accessible nuclear material — the quantity remaining in the vault was unknown.

As part of the Global Threat Reduction Programme the UK Government funded a project to determine the inventory of these nuclear materials in this vault. This involved drilling three penetrations through the concrete lined roof of the vault; this enabled the placement of lights and a camera into the vault through two penetrations; while the third penetration enabled a lightweight manipulator arm to be introduced into the vault. This was used to provide a detailed 3D mapping of the dose rate within the vault and it also enabled the collection of samples for radionuclide analysis.

The deconvolution of the 3D dose rate profile within the vault enabled the determination of the gamma emitting source distribution on the floor and walls of the vault. The samples were analysed to determine the fingerprint of those radionuclides producing the gamma dose — namely 137Cs and 60Co — to the nuclear materials. The combination of the dose rate source terms on the surfaces of the vault and the fingerprint then enabled the quantities of nuclear materials to be determined.

The project was a major success and enabled the Kazakhstan Government to comply with IAEA Safeguards requirements. It also enabled the UK DECC Ministry to develop a technology of national (and international) use. Finally the technology was well received by IAEA Safeguards as an acceptable methodology for future studies.

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