Over the previous decade, Phoenix Nuclear Labs (PNL) has developed a high yield, accelerator- based neutron radiography system capable of providing neutron-based nondestructive inspection (NDI) capabilities to the Navy without the use of a nuclear reactor. Neutron radiography is a proven NDI technique that is complementary to other widely used NDI techniques such as X-ray radiography and ultrasound imaging. It is an important NDI modality for a number of high-cost-of-failure components utilized by the US military and the commercial aerospace industry such as cartridge actuated initiators (CAD/PADs), aircraft turbine blades, ceramic body armor, composite materials, and a wide range of munitions, rockets, and other related components. However, neutron radiography has previously been available exclusively at nuclear reactors or large $1B+ spallation neutron sources. Reliance on large, multi-user, off-site facilities for neutron radiography services has a number of problems that have gotten significantly worse over the past decade including:
- Decrease in the number of operating reactors due to regulatory, aging, and political issues
- High cost of operation and security to prevent proliferation of nuclear material
- Difficulty and unreliability of scheduling and access to neutron radiography facilities
- Lack of control over imaging methodology and image quality
- Limited facility access for components containing explosives or propellants
PNL has developed an accelerator-based neutron generator that can eliminate DoD reliance on external reactor facilities by providing onsite neutron radiography capabilities (similar to currently deployed X-ray technologies) that can handle high throughput NDI in a production environment.