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A New Era of Nuclear Criticality Experiments: The First 10 Years of Planet Operations at NCERC
Nuclear Science and Engineering  (IF1.381),  Pub Date : 2021-10-14, DOI: 10.1080/00295639.2021.1951077
Rene Sanchez, Theresa Cutler, Joetta Goda, Travis Grove, David Hayes, Jesson Hutchinson, George McKenzie, Alexander McSpaden, William Myers, Roberto Rico, Jessie Walker, Robert Weldon


Planet is a vertical-lift assembly machine currently located at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center (NCERC) at the Nevada National Security Site. In the past, Planet resided at Technical Area-18 in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as part of the Los Alamos Critical Experiments Facility (LACEF). Following the de-inventorying of LACEF, the Planet assembly was relocated to NCERC in 2008 and became fully operational in June of 2011. The Class Foils experiment, which involves stacking highly enriched uranium foils to obtain a critical configuration, was the first critical experiment performed on Planet. As a major component of the Nuclear Criticality Safety Class taught for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Nuclear Criticality Safety Program, the Class Foils experiment allows personnel from all over the DOE complex to handle nuclear material and to complete the approach to critical safely and successfully. This paper describes the Planet vertical assembly and recent engineering upgrade and a selection of the experiments that have been performed on Planet since its transition to NCERC 10 years ago.