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Unit information: Nuclear Fuel Cycle in 2015/16

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Unit name Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Unit code PHYSM0025
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Tom Scott
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The course is designed to give students an overview of the whole nuclear fuel cycle, from the mining of the uranium ore to processing, from the changes to the fuel in operation to the eventual disposal, potential reprocessing and/or decommissioning.

There will be a particular focus on the metallurgy and materials science of the fuel at each of the various stages in the cycle. There will be a detailed study of the state of play in the UK within a more general global landscape. An introduction to topics of extraction and enrichment will be discussed. Students will gain an in-depth knowledge of the physical and chemical structure and behaviour of nuclear fuel, and how this changes as a function of time, during its operational lifetime. The most important physical and chemical processes involved in the safe handling and processing of spent nuclear fuel will be covered in detail.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  1. Understand the principal aspects in the overall lifecycle of nuclear fuel,
  2. Describe the chemical and physical changes that the fuel undergoes during reactor operation,
  3. Calculate radiation doses and predict how these will decay as a function of time,
  4. Classify nuclear waste and understand the process for treating, transporting and disposing nuclear waste
  5. Describe the principal techniques for decommissioning nuclear sites with particular emphasis on Sellafield and the situation in the UK .

Teaching Information

Mainly taught through lectures (24x1hour) and problems classes (3x2 hour).

Screencasts and podcasts will be available to summarise key parts of the course, as well as the formation of a summary flipbook – this will include a number of on-line quizzes to reinforce the most important concepts.

There will also be a number of guest lectures from current reactor physicists and visits to Cannington Court to use the EDF reactor simulators.

Assessment Information

Formative assessment will be provided through online quizzes and problems classes

Summative Assessment: 3000 word essay (100%)

Reading and References

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle: From Ore to Waste, ed. P. D. Wilson, Oxford Science Publications, Oxford, 1996. ISBN 978-0198565406