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Optimisation des mesures de spectrométrie gamma pour la prospection de l'uranium

Thomas Marchais 1
1 LMN - Laboratoire de Mesures Nucléaires
SMTA - Service Mesures et modélisation des Transferts et des Accidents graves : DEN/DTN
Abstract : This PhD thesis in the frame of CEA - ORANO Mining collaboration aimed at improving the sensitivity and precision of radiometric uranium measurements for mining exploration and exploitation, particularly for ore samples characterisation. Before explaining the development of new gamma spectrometry methods, a survey of nuclear measurement methods currently used in this field are presented as well as their limitations. The new proposed methods exploit uranium X-ray fluorescence in order to reduce measurement time and improve accuracy. Gamma radiation from radioactive isotopes of the natural uranium decay chain, such as 214Pb and 214Bi, create a large Compton scattering continuum beyond the K-absorption discontinuity at 115.6 keV, leading to X-ray fluorescence. Uranium fluorescence K lines, in the 100 keV region, are representative of the uranium concentration up to a depth of a few centimetres, which is particularly interesting for small samples and drill cores. The intensity of self-fluorescence depends on the activity of the radioactive isotopes present in the ore, which can be directly quantified by gamma spectrometry from their characteristic lines, and on the density and mineralogy of the ore. In addition to uranium content, it is possible to detect a heterogeneity, for instance a uranium nugget, by comparing the 234Th passive emission line at 92 keV and the uranium XKα1 fluorescence line at 98 keV. This high-resolution gamma spectrometry approach using a hyper-pure germanium detector has been developed by MCNP numerical simulation, and then experimentally qualified using existing gamma spectra acquired by ORANO as well as new ore sample measurements at CEA Cadarache Nuclear Measurement Laboratory. Beyond this patent pending method, the PhD thesis studies the characterization of uranium content and potential imbalances between uranium and its radioactive daughters, such as the main signal contributors 214Pb and 214Bi, by low-resolution gamma spectrometry with a NaI(Tl) scintillator. An approach based on the analysis of energy areas of the gamma spectrum has been developed by numerical simulation and experimentally qualified in the Nuclear Measurement Laboratory. This new method is also patent pending and the outcome of this PhD work is the ongoing industrialization, by ORANO Mining, of an in situ measurement system for samples, and of a new borehole gamma probe.
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Thomas Marchais. Optimisation des mesures de spectrométrie gamma pour la prospection de l'uranium. Instrumentations et Détecteurs [physics.ins-det]. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2019. Français. ⟨NNT : 2019GREAY017⟩. ⟨tel-02366534⟩

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