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Unit information: Nuclear Reactor Physics in 2021/22

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

Normally PHYS22040 Nuclear and Particle Physics or equivalent.



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

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

Material will be delivered by both University of Bristol staff and current reactor physicists and engineers

Assessment Details

Formative assessment through online quizzes and problems classes

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


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYSM0024).