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Providing metrological tools to support nuclear safeguards activities


Specific Objectives:
The production of a new, replacement series of uranium isotopic RMs as part of the International Uranium Isotopic Reference Material Series in cooperation with NBL, USA; production of IRMM-072 replacement Production (CETAMA) and certification of MP3 Pu metal Preparation of a new series of large- scale dried (LSD) spikes for U and Pu measurement in reprocessing solutions Continuation of the REIMEP external QC campaigns for the measurement of nuclear materials in the fuel cycle Preparation of nuclear RMs suitable for measurement of U and Pu in environmental samples Continuation of NUSIMEP external QC campaigns for measurement of nuclear materials in environmental samples Basic research into improved measurement techniques.
Planned Deliverables:
Certification of the purified U isotopic material Measurement and certification of isotopic abundance of MP3 Preparation and certification of 1000 ampoules of LSD spike 1027h. The materials will be shipped mainly to the Rokkasho Plant, Japan (JNFL), to La Hague and Sellafield Completed REIMEP campaign for Pu or U/Pu isotopic measurements (dependent on customer feedback on which campaign is preferred). Production of uranium particles by controlled hydrolysis of certified UF6 Acceptance of new NUSIMEP round for CCQM intercomparison study Installation of new TIMS for improved uranium minor isotope measurements.
Summary of the Action:
The action has at its base the need to maintain the measurement capability in Europe and world-wide in the nuclear field, including environmental sampling. The importance of this capability is clear, but it can only be realised by a strong metrological foundation: which IRMM can supply. One of the main thrusts of the IRMM FP6 MAW programme will be the setting up and production of uranium isotopic reference materials (IRMs) based on mixing purified, highly-enriched uranium isotopic material. As part of a larger collaboration with NBL, these will contribute to a new 'International Uranium Isotopic Reference Material Series' and should provide the basis for uranium isotope measurements for the next 10-20 years. Also, a replacement series for the IRMM-072 U isotopic mixes will be made. As part of our cooperation with CETAMA, France, we have agreed to collaborate in the certification of the next batch of Pu reference metal to be produced next year by CETAMA. IRMM was the originator of the concept of 'large spikes', in particular for measurement of U and Pu in dissolved nuclear fuel. The start of the new Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Japan has increased the projected demands for these spikes across FP6 and beyond and we will devote a good part of our production capability to preparing these spikes in the future. The external QC campaigns, REIMEP and NUSIMEP are specific to IRMM and will be continued during the MAWP. We expect to be able to organise and carry out one of each of these QC campaigns per year on average, depending on demands for types of samples made to us from the users. For RMs for environmental samples 'realistic' particles by hydrolysis of UF6 under controlled conditions will be produced and certified. A continual effort is made to train scientists from Europe and other countries. These have included scientists from Russia (TACIS), USA and Japan.

The main direction is towards CC scientists for the next MAWP who may be invited under the PECO programme. Work for ESO is on-going (ECSAM analyses): some solids (Pu oxides or MOX samples) and also UF6 samples for uranium isotopic abundances measurement. As well as these analyses we are regular requested to prepare specific certified materials by outside customers. In particular we prepare, certify and deliver UF6 samples with isotopic abundances as specified. This is a unique service and highly regarded by the specialist customers in Europe and elsewhere who order these material regularly.

The accurate measurement of amounts of nuclear material and of their isotopic abundances is crucial for industry, nuclear inspectorates, for determining extent and impact of environmental spillages as well as for the non- proliferation treaty (NPT). The application of suitable reference materials (RMs) is an essential part of all measurements and of critical importance in this field where measurement uncertainties need to be kept as low as possible. The ever-increasing demands for lower uncertainties in measurements of nuclear materials and the steady improvement of instruments and measurement techniques put a heavy requirement on the reference materials which are a fundamental part of each measurement. IRMM is one of the top players in this area on the international scene and has a strong role to play in preparation and production of reference materials of the highest caliber. A number of RMs that are needed in the field have been identified in particular by meetings held under the aegis of the IAEA. These include RMs specifically designed for applications in environmental sampling.
The application of the same principles and techniques that are used for preparation of reference materials to preparation of samples for external quality control campaigns. For these areas IRMM/IM carries out the role of an independent laboratory capable of standing comparison against the best laboratories in the field. These campaigns (REIMEP for conventional safeguards and NUSIMEP for environmental samples) are incorporated into the QM systems of several field laboratories and provide essentially an objective comparison of the measurement capability of the laboratories. IRMM also acts as an independent laboratory to measure a small number of 'ECSAM' samples on the request of the Euratom Safeguards Office, Luxembourg. On top of these tasks, IRMM keeps a supply of nuclear RMs. The RMs are purchased by the international community to approximately k€ 100 annually. This stock must be kept up-to-date and good contacts with customers furthered. Some special RMs are regularly requested, especially for uranium isotopic RMs with specified isotope abundances and for large size dried spikes, for which IRMM is the main world supplier.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/astronomy/observational astronomy/infrared astronomy
  • /natural sciences/chemical sciences/inorganic chemistry/inorganic compounds

Funding Scheme

JRC - Joint Research Centre research


Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements
B-2440 Geel