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MPhys Physics with Astrophysics

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Reactor Systems

Unit code MACE31642
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Division (L5)
Available as a free choice unit? No


Reactor Systems continues to broaden the students’ knowledge of nuclear fission (and fusion) reactor systems and the factors that must be considered when designing, constructing, operating, regulating, and decommissioning such a system.  This understanding will form a strong foundation for any prospective nuclear engineer.  The unit is run over twelve weeks and will be divided into four broad areas as described below.

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates


To develop the students’ understanding of how radiation transport is modelled,

To discuss nuclear safety and risk assessment,

To expand upon the students’ knowledge of nuclear fuel and the fuel cycle, and

To introduce alternative uses and sources of nuclear energy.


 Modelling Radiation Transport (Dr J Turner)

The aim of these classroom and computer-based lectures is to give the students understanding of the reasons for modelling radiation transport.  The students will also investigate the methods that can be used to solve the Boltzmann equation.  The students will then experience how this knowledge is applied through the simulation of a case study using a standard modelling code.   This modelling will form part of the seen assignment.  By the end of the topic, the students will be able to: 

  1. give the reasons for modelling radiation transport,
  2. explain the Boltzmann equation for radiation transport,
  3. compare the stochastic and deterministic methods for solving the Boltzmann equation, and
  4. simulate a real-life case study. 

Nuclear Safety and Risk Assessment (Dr G Hall)

The aim of these lectures is to give the students an introduction to the basic principles of nuclear installation safety, what is risk, and how risk is assessed with reference to nuclear installations.  The students need to consider these principles when they review the case study used in their simulations.  This review then forms the second part of the seen assignment.  By the end of the topic, the students will be able to: 

  1. emphasise the importance of nuclear safety,
  2. summarise the legislative and regulatory nuclear framework within the UK,
  3. explain nuclear safety objectives, design principles, and design in depth,
  4. consider risk and ALARP,
  5. conduct a simple fault analysis, and
  6. critically assess real-life case studies. 

Nuclear Fuel and Fuel Cycle (Prof T Abram)

The aim of these lectures is to extend the students’ knowledge of nuclear fuel by examining various fuel designs and the complete fuel cycle from mining of the uranium to the reprocessing and waste management of the spent fuel.  By the end of the topic, the students will be able to: 

  1. describe the design and manufacture of fuel and fuel cladding,
  2. explain the manufacture and enrichment of fuel,
  3. calculate the performance of fuel in-reactor, and
  4. discuss the management and reprocessing of spent fuel. 

Other Uses and Sources of Nuclear Energy (Prof T Abram & Dr G Hall)

When asked, many people would say that the primary purpose of nuclear reactors is to generate electricity.  However, this is not wholly true and nuclear reactors can serve other purposes.  In a similar manner, nuclear fission reactors are not the only source of nuclear-based energy.  These lectures aim to give the students an overview of other uses and sources of nuclear-based energy.  By the end of the topic, the students will be able to: 

  1. summarise the use of nuclear energy for water desalination and industrial process heat,
  2. discuss the use of nuclear energy in research reactors, the production of radioisotopes, and medical imaging,
  3. recount the use of nuclear energy for propulsion (space and marine),
  4. compare fusion and fission reactions, and
  5. explain the common types of fusion energy devices.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 80%
Report 20%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be given to the students via the return of their coursework, which will have been appropriately annotated and marked by the lecturer.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
eAssessment 6
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Graham Hall Unit coordinator

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