MSc Nuclear Science and Technology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Severe Accidents

Course unit fact file
Unit code PHYS65280
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Full year
Available as a free choice unit? No


An introduction to nuclear severe accidents for light water reactors.


•  Contextualise severe accidents in the basic principles of a safety case and provide a history of how the field developed from the early Chicago Pile experiments. 
•  Establish a grounding in aspects of thermal-hydraulics, thermodynamics and material science that are relevant to severe accidents.
•  Introduce the fields of fission product release mechanics, chemistry and aerosol physics.
•  Provide an overview of the environmental consequences of a nuclear severe accident.
•  Introduce some of the methods used in industrial analyses of severe accident transients.
•  Provide an appreciation of the inherent uncertainties of a severe accident.

Learning outcomes

ILO 1 - Describe and explain the physics and chemistry phenomena that are expected to occur in the nuclear power plant if sustainable cooling of the core cannot be re-established.
ILO 2 - Balance the positive and negative aspects of some severe accident phenomena in terms of the different risk outcomes.
ILO 3 - Solve practical problems through calculation and / or deduction in order to estimate or bound plant responses or consequences.
ILO 4 - Interpret phase diagrams and apply a basis in material science in order to provide insight into material behaviours in a degraded core environment.
ILO 5 - Apply an understanding of thermal-hydraulics and fluid mechanics in order to provide insight into the thermal behaviour of a degraded core.
ILO 6 - Compare and contrast prospective severe accident outcomes through an understanding of the phenomenology and apply deduction based on different initial conditions.

Teaching and learning methods

A. Knowledge and Understanding 
Students are taught via directed reading (pre-course) and directly in appropriately equipped rooms at the institution delivering the module. Learning is consolidated in tutorial and review sessions.

•    Pre-course directed reading                            
•    Direct Teaching
•    Tutorial sessions

B. Intellectual Skills
Students are able to exercise their intellectual skills through in-class discussion, tutorial sessions, and the completion of the assigned post-module criticality safety assessment.

•    In-class discussion
•    Post-course assignment

C. Practical Skills
Students are able to exercise their practical skills through tutorial sessions and completion of the assigned post-module criticality safety assessment.

•    Tutorial sessions
•    Post-course assignment

D. Transferable Skills and Personal Qualities
Students are able to enhance their transferable skills through in-class discussion, tutorial sessions, and the completion of the assigned post-module criticality safety assessment.

•    In-class discussion
•    Tutorial sessions
•    Assignment exercise
•    Post-course assignment

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%

Feedback methods

Feedback provided on strong, weak or missing aspects of the assignment. Score provided for examination.

Recommended reading

The principal text for the course is “Nuclear Safety in Light Water Reactors”, Bal Raj Seghal.
This course is designed to be self-contained, but students may benefit from some background reading. The content of any pre-course reading that also appears in the lecture series can be assessed.
Texts that are intended to provide background support for the study of severe accidents but not directly related to the field are as follows: 
Thermal Physics: C.B.P Finn, A. Rex (3rd Edition).
Fundamentals of Heat and Mass Transfer (6th Edition), De Witt et al.
Material Science and Engineering (10th Edition), W. Callister & G Rethwisch.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 35
Independent study hours
Independent study 115

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Martin Turner Unit coordinator

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