MChem Chemistry with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Radiochemistry and Nuclear Chemistry

Course unit fact file
Unit code CHEM40311
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Department of Chemistry
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 21/22 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  

This module explores the physical and chemical characteristics of the radioactive elements, including The Atomic Nucleus; Origin of the Elements; Subvalent Actinide Chemistry; Optical Spectroscopy of Lanthanides and Actinides



Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Introductory Chemistry CHEM10101 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


The course unit aims to provide:

  • an understanding of the nature and properties of the atomic nucleus
  • knowledge of the chemistry of the actinide elements, particularly electronic and molecular structure of actinide species
  • an explanation of the origins of the chemical elements and their abundances, including the physical mechanisms and the relationships to the life cycles of stars.

Learning outcomes

  • Understand simple models of the atomic nucleus and their relevance to physical properties.
  • Explain the origins of the chemical elements and their universal abundances, and relate element production to the life cycle of stars and the nuclear reactions that take place in them.
  • Understand the role of nuclear power in the context of zero carbon
  • Understand the interaction of radiation with matter and the methods of radiation detection
  • Understand the causes of criticality incidents and how to prevent them
  • Understand the electronic structure and chemistry of the actinide elements and salient features of their chemistry.


Teaching and learning methods

Unseen Examination: 1 hour 45 mins

Intellectual skills

Students should be able to:

  • Understand the basic concepts of radiochemistry
  • Combine the basic principles of relevant physics and chemistry


Transferable skills and personal qualities

The following transferable skills will be developed:

  • Assimilation of complex physical and chemical concepts
  • Analysis and synthesis of diverse ideas from different topics in the course
  • Nuclear weapons design
  • Time management and organisation


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

Nucleosynthesis: There is a workshop session at the end of the nucleosythesis section, where the students can attempt and receive feedback on questions.

The atomic nucleus: Students attempt past paper questions, and these are then worked through in a workshop

Interactions of radiation with matter: The last lectures are interspersed with problems and questions to go through questions that were set during the course.

Optical spectroscopy of lanthanides and actinides: The lectures are interspersed with problems and questions to go through alongside workshop/examples sessions and past paper questions with feedback provided.


Recommended reading

  • Radiochemistry and nuclear chemistry (3rd ed) By Gregory R. Choppin, Jan-Olov Liljenzin, Jan Rydberg
  • Chemistry of the f-block elements-Helen Aspinall (Gordon and Breach)
  • The f elements-Nikolas Kaltsoyannis and Peter Scott (Oxford Chemistry Primers)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 74

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Francis Livens Unit coordinator

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