Journal article

Characterization of Extended Range Bonner Sphere Spctrometers in the CERF high-energy broad neutron field at CERN

The accurate determination of the ambient dose equivalent in the mixed neutron-photon fields encountered around high-energy particle accelerators still represents a challenging task. The main complexity arises from the extreme variability of the neutron energy, which spans over ten orders of magnitude or more. Operational survey instruments, which response function attempts to mimic the fluence-to-ambient dose equivalent conversion coefficient up to GeV neutrons, are available on the market, but their response is not fully reliable over the entire energy range. Extended range rem counters (ERRC) do not require the exact knowledge of the energy distribution of the neutron field and the calibration can be done with a source spectrum. If the actual neutron field has an energy distribution different from the calibration spectrum, the measurement is affected by an added uncertainty related to the partial overlap of the fluence-to- ambient dose equivalent conversion curve and the response function. For this reason their operational use should always be preceded by an “in-field” calibration, i.e. a calibration made against a reference instrument exposed in the same field where the survey-meter will be employed. In practice the extended-range Bonner Sphere Spectrometer (ERBSS) is the only device which can serve as reference instrument in these fields, because of its wide energy range and the possibility to assess the neutron fluence and the ambient dose equivalent (H⁎(10)) values with the appropriate accuracy. Nevertheless, the experience gained by a number of experimental groups suggests that mandatory conditions for obtaining accurate results in workplaces are: (1) the use of a well-established response matrix, thus implying validation campaigns in reference monochromatic neutrons fields, (2) the expert and critical use of suitable unfolding codes, and (3) the performance test of the whole system (experimental set-up, elaboration and unfolding procedures) in a well controlled workplace field. The CERF (CERN-EU high-energy reference field) facility is a unique example of such a field, where a number of experimental campaigns and Monte Carlo simulations have been performed over the past years. With the aim of performing this kind of workplace performance test, four different ERBSS with different degrees of validation, operated by three groups (CERN, INFN-LNF and Politecnico of Milano), were exposed in two fixed positions at CERF. By using different unfolding codes (MAXED, GRAVEL, FRUIT and FRUIT SGM), the experimental data were analyzed to provide the neutron spectra and the related dosimetric quantities. The results allow assessing the overall performance of each ERBSS and of the unfolding codes, as well as comparing the performance of three ERRCs when used in a neutron field with energy distribution different from the calibration spectrum.


Related material