PUNITA: a Pulsed Neutron Facility for Research in Illicit Trafficking and Nuclear Safeguards


The Joint Research Centre has taken into operation a new experimental device designed for research in the fields of nuclear safeguards and illicit trafficking. The research projects currently undertaken include detection of shielded contraband materials, and mass determination of small fissile materials in shielded containers. The device, called the Pulsed Neutron Interrogation Test Assembly (PUNITA), incorporates a pulsed 14-MeV neutron generator producing neutrons in 5-microsecond bursts. After a slowing-down time of about 300 microseconds, an average thermal neutron lifetime of about one millisecond is achieved in the graphite moderator and the sample cavity. By pulsing the neutron generator with a frequency in the range of 10 to 150 Hz, a sample may be interrogated first by fast neutrons only and a few hundred micro-seconds later by a pure thermal neutron flux. For the detection of materials such as explosives the device employs gamma detectors for characteristic prompt gamma rays from inelastic scattering, by fast neutrons, and from thermal neutron capture. The gamma detectors include HPGe detectors and scintillation detectors based on the Lanthanum Bromide crystal. This new scintillation detector is particularly suited for the detection of activation gamma rays in the MeV range. The paper reports about the design and characterization of the new research facility as well as the different experimental configurations employed for the research activities in the fields of illicit trafficking and nuclear safeguards.

CROCHEMORE Jean-Michel, PEDERSEN Bent, FAVALLI Andrea, MEHNER Hans-Christoph
Publication Year
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Appears in Collections
Appears in Collections: 
Institute for Transuranium Elements
Science Areas
Science Areas: 
JRC Institutes
George Vourvopoulos
URI : 
9th International Conference on Applications of Nuclear Techniques