MPhys Physics with Astrophysics / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Applied Nuclear Physics

Course unit fact file
Unit code PHYS40422
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Applied Nuclear Physics


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics PHYS30121 Pre-Requisite Recommended

Follow - Up Units

PHYS40421 - Nuclear Structure and Exotic Nuclei

MACE31642 and postgraduate courses


To achieve an awareness and basic understanding of the way the principles and methods of nuclear physics are put into practice to serve the needs of a modern society.

Learning outcomes

On completion successful students will be able to:
1. Summarise the aspects of nuclear physics which are most relevant to current applications.
2. Derive the key relationships describing nuclear behaviour and properties of radiation which are
    exploited in areas of application from fundamental concepts and nuclear properties.
3. Demonstrate, by example, how the principles and concepts of physics and nuclear physics are
     exploited in areas of technology, energy, environment and health.
4. Calculate solutions to basic problems involving the application of the concepts of physics and
     nuclear physics in the practical situations covered in the course unit


1.   Interaction of Radiation with Matter
Theory and general features for charged particles - the Bethe-Bloch equation
Photon interactions - photoelectric effect, Compton scattering, pair production
Neutron scattering and absorption
Attenuation and shielding

2.   Radiation detection
Gas-filled counters - ionization chambers, proportional and Geiger counters
Scintillators - properties of different phosphors
Semiconductor detectors: silicon, germanium

3.   Biological effects of radiation
Stages of damage in tissue - response to different radiation types
Radiation dosimetry - activity, dose, quality factor
Radiobiological effects - molecular damage and repair, cell survival
Human exposure and risk
Environmental factors

4.   Nuclear fission
Fission and nuclear structure, energy in fission
Fission products, prompt and delayed neutrons - chain reaction and critical mass
Role of thermal neutrons - neutron moderation
The thermal fission reactor: the neutron economy, criticality
Homogeneous reactor examples - infinite and finite reactor
Operation and control

5.   Nuclear fusion
Basic reactions and energetics
Controlled fusion - magnetic confinement, inertial confinement 

6.     Applications of nuclear techniques
Nuclear forensics and safeguards
Radiometric dating techniques
Radiation diagnosis and therapy

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

  • In-class discussion 

  • Online discussion board 

  • Model answers for review and tutorial questions

Recommended reading

Recommended texts

Lilley, J. Nuclear Physics Principles and Applications, (Wiley) 

Shultis, J. K. and Faw, R. E. Fundamentals of Nuclear Science and Engineering, (CRC Press)  

Some of the course material is also covered by sections from Burcham, W.E. Elements of Nuclear Physics, (Longman) 

Krane, K.J. Introductory Nuclear Physics, (Wiley) 

Additional reading 

Knoll, G. F. Radiation Detection and Measurement, (Wiley) 

Bennet, D.J. & Thompson, J.R. Elements of Nuclear Power, (Longman) Coggle, J.E. Biological Effects of Radiation, (Wykham) 


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Stuart Christie Unit coordinator

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