Module information on this degree can be found below, separated by year of study.

The module information below applies for the current academic year. The academic year runs from August to July; the 'current year' switches over at the end of July.

Students select optional courses subject to rules specified in the Mechanical Engineering Student Handbook,  for example at most three Design and Business courses. Please note that numbers are limited on some optional courses and selection criteria will apply.

Nuclear Reactor Physics

Module aims

To provide an introduction to the reactor physics of nuclear reactors.

ECTS units:  5

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this module, students will be able to:

  • Discuss aspects of reactor physics relevant to nuclear power
  • Understand the concept of criticality, and its estimation in various idealised geometries
  • Understand basic point kinetics concepts, and prompt and delayed criticality
  • Appreciate the main reactivity feedback mechanisms and their significance
  • Perform point-kinetics reactor transient analyses, appreciating the importance of prompt criticality and neutron lifetime
  • Perform analyses on simple reactor geometries

Module syllabus

Overview of nuclear reactor physics; basic concepts. The diffusion equation. Diffusion, neutron current, neutron flux, the diffusion approximation, the diffusion equation. Example solution for a source free region.
Criticality. Multiplying media and criticality: one group reactor equation. The source term, criticality condition for a 1-D slab reactor, spherical reactor, brick reactor. The cylindrical reactor: determination of critical size, minimum critical radius/height. Spatial distribution of flux, energy generation.
Reactor physics of thermal reactors. Thermal reactor analysis, the four-factor formula, resonance escape, fast fission. Neutron life cycle in a thermal reactor.
Reflected reactors. Reflectors. Determination of critical size of a reflected sphere, reflector savings.
Fast reactors. Reactor physics of fast reactors; breeding.
Reactor kinetics. Doubling times, prompt criticality; reactivity feedback mechanisms, positive and negative feedback, power and temperature coefficients. Xenon poisoning.


ME3-hNUCN Introduction to Nuclear Energy

Teaching methods

  • Duration:  Spring Term (11 weeks)
  • Lectures: 2hrs per week.
  • Tutorials: 1hr per week 

Summary of student timetabled hours







Tutorials --- 11  


33 (if 11 tutorials attended)

Expected private study time

3-4 h per week plus exam revision


Written examinations:  title, duration and rubric

Date (approx.)

Max. mark

Pass mark

Nuclear Reactor Physics (3h)

A Data and Formulæ book and ‘NRT Data and Formulae’ are provided.

This is a CLOSED BOOK Examination.

April/ May



Module leaders

Dr Matthew Eaton