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Unit information: Nuclear Reactor Physics in 2016/17

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Unit name Nuclear Reactor Physics
Unit code PHYSM0024
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Springell
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


The course will include a description of the basic fundamentals of nuclear reactor physics, focussed on the various commercial fission reactors, but also featuring an introduction to nuclear fusion.

The students will gain an understanding of thermal, reflected and fast reactor types, as well as concepts such as neutron current, flux, diffusion and moderation. Reactor kinetics will be discussed with particular attention on criticality, both prompt and delayed. This course will also provide students with an introduction to thermal hydraulics.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  1. Describe the principal operation of nuclear reactors relevant to power generation,
  2. Discuss the factors affecting neutron flux and the process of neutron moderation, including an understanding of the diffusion equation.
  3. Describe the concept of criticality in terms of point-kinetics for simple reactor geometries,
  4. Explain reactor feedback mechanisms, both positive and negative, including phenomena such as Xenon poisoning
  5. Understand the basic heat transfer and important fluid flows in various nuclear reactors.

Teaching details

Mainly taught through lectures and problems classes.

Screencasts and podcasts will be available to summarise key parts of the course, as well as the formation of a summary flipbook – this will include a number of on-line quizzes to reinforce the most important concepts.

There will also be a number of guest lectures from current reactor physicists and visits to Cannington Court to use the EDF reactor simulators.

Assessment Details

Formative assessment through online quizzes and problems classes

Summative Assessment :2-hour written exam (100%)

Reading and References

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle: From Ore to Waste, ed. P. D. Wilson, Oxford Science Publications, Oxford, 1996. ISBN: 978-0198565406