April 16, 2024

Sum-of-Fractions Methodology for Actinides in Water- and Polyethylene-Moderated and -Reflected Systems


Sum-of-fractions is a method intended to make sure a subcritical margin for aqueous solutions and slurries of fissionable isotopes exists. The method indicates that a system is subcritical if the sum of the ratios of the mass of each isotope (in a mixture) to its individual minimum subcritical mass limit is less than or equal to one. Historically, the basis of the sum-of-fractions has been derived from allowances given in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/ American Nuclear Society (ANS)-8.15-1981. However, the allowance was removed in ANSI/ANS-8.15-2014 due to a lack of technical basis. A methodology was developed to assess the validity of using the sum-of-fractions for water- or polyethylene-moderated systems for the following nuclides: 232U, 233U, 234U, 235U, 237Np, 236Pu, 238Pu, 239Pu, 240Pu, 241Pu, 242Pu, 241Am, 242mAm, 243Am, 242Cm, 243Cm, 244Cm, 245Cm, 246Cm, 247Cm, 249Cf, and 251Cf. The methodology uses available benchmark data for mixtures of 233U, 235U, and 239Pu to establish the calculational margin, and a mass limit reduction to establish the margin of subcriticality. Water- or polyethylene-moderated and -reflected mixtures containing the nuclides are evaluated with the code system, SCALE 6.2.4. Including the calculational margin, subcritical mass limits for each nuclide were computed for optimally water- or polyethylene-moderated and fully reflected systems. These masses were used to create nuclide mixtures in which the sum of the mass to subcritical mass limit ratios is one. The various nuclide mixtures were modeled over a range of moderation and demonstrate the keff does not exceed the calculational margin. For additional assurance of subcriticality, a significant mass reduction is applied to each computed minimum critical mass of the nuclides without adequate benchmark data consistent with the method in ANSI/ANS-8.15-2014.

Published: April 16, 2024


Zipperer T.J., A.W. Prichard, T.M. Greene, W.B. Marshall, and A. Lang. 2024. Sum-of-Fractions Methodology for Actinides in Water- and Polyethylene-Moderated and -Reflected Systems Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Research topics