Adjoint-based sensitivity and uncertainty analysis for density and composition: A user's guide

Jeffrey A. Favorite, Zoltán Perkó, Brian C. Kiedrowski, Christopher M. Perfetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The evaluation of uncertainties is essential for criticality safety. This paper deals with material density and composition uncertainties and provides guidance on how traditional first-order sensitivity methods can be used to predict their effects. Unlike problems that deal with traditional cross-section uncertainty analysis, material density and composition-related problems are often characterized by constraints that do not allow arbitrary and independent variations of the input parameters. Their proper handling requires constrained sensitivities that take into account the interdependence of the inputs. This paper discusses how traditional unconstrained isotopic density sensitivities can be calculated using the adjoint sensitivity capabilities of the popular Monte Carlo codes MCNP6 and SCALE 6.2, and we also present the equations to be used when forward and adjoint flux distributions are available. Subsequently, we show how the constrained sensitivities can be computed using the unconstrained (adjoint-based) sensitivities as well as by applying central differences directly. Three distinct procedures are presented for enforcing the constraint on the input variables, each leading to different constrained sensitivities. As a guide, the sensitivity and uncertainty formulas for several frequently encountered specific cases involving densities and compositions are given. An analytic k example highlights the relationship between constrained sensitivity formulas and central differences, and a more realistic numerical problem reveals similarities among the computer codes used and differences among the three methods of enforcing the constraint.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-405
Number of pages22
JournalNuclear Science and Engineering: research and development related to peaceful utilization of nuclear energy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adjoint
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Uncertainty quantification


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