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Overview of Nuclear Reactor Dynamics Courses and Classes

Nuclear reactor dynamics, also called nuclear reactor kinetics, explores the forces that influence the motion of particles and bodies within the reactor system, such as transient particles that decay over time. Courses in this advanced and complex topic are generally found within nuclear engineering graduate programs.

Essential Information

Students of nuclear reactor dynamics learn how to investigate the processes occurring within an operational nuclear reactor, with a goal towards better understanding system safety and control. Forces that don't initiate within the system are of special interest. Although some courses can be found at the undergraduate level, training is geared towards advanced graduate students who intend to establish careers in the nuclear industry, national labs, or in state or federal agencies.

Here are a few concepts that students in nuclear reactor dynamics courses can expect to encounter:

  • Risk analysis
  • Thermal hydraulics
  • Radiation biophysics
  • Controlled fusion
  • Radiation detection
  • Nano-macro scale applications

List of Common Courses

Nuclear Power Engineering Course

An introduction to the basics of nuclear engineering, this undergraduate course is one of the initial steps toward the more specific study of nuclear reactor dynamics. Nuclear power engineering courses provide an overview of fission processes and controlled chain reactions as well as the analysis of reactor cores, the components of power plants and radioactive waste treatment. Safety analysis and containment are also included in the curriculum, along with economic and research applications.

Radiation Interactions with Matter Course

This course, sometimes presented in a 2-semester format, serves in part as a stepping stone from basic undergraduate nuclear engineering courses to more advanced principles of nuclear reactions. Student learning is focused on the interaction of matter with charged particles, neutrons and gamma rays as well as radioactive decay, nuclear structure and an intro to quantum mechanics. Charged particle cross-sections theory, Schrödinger's equation and fusion reactions are also covered.

Nuclear Reactor Theory Course

This course is usually a prerequisite for further education in nuclear reactor dynamics. Nuclear reactor theory offers an overview of nuclear systems fundamentals, neutron moderation, neutron chain reactions, characteristics of fission, 2-group and multi-group theory and diffusion theory. The course involves numerical and analytical solutions to assignments, requiring students to have a computer and appropriate software skills.

Nuclear Reactor Dynamics and Control Course

This is the standard nuclear reactor dynamics course, which usually includes instruction on reactor control. Students are introduced to the principles of reactor dynamics though the study of reactor kinetics, subcritical multiplication, thermal and reactivity feedback effects and fuel temperature. For reactor control, topics covered include surveillance and diagnostics, signal validation, trajectory tracking and supervisory algorithms. Most courses involve extensive work with dynamic equations as well as reactor analysis and methodology. This advanced course requires extensive knowledge of nuclear engineering and is generally part of a graduate degree program.

Nuclear Reactor Kinetics Course

A complementary course to nuclear reactor dynamics and control, nuclear reactor kinetics courses are similar, but can involve different concepts and a greater focus on the physical mathematics of nuclear kinetics than on systems of control. The focus of this course is on the math and mathematical subject matter that include point reactor equations, state vector techniques, Laplace transform techniques and finite difference techniques. Nuclear physics is also reviewed, along with the treatments, applications, derivations and solutions of kinetic equations. Other topics covered include reactivity, non-linear and space-dependent kinetics, xenon oscillations and reactor noise analysis. Prerequisites for this course usually include nuclear engineering and nuclear reactor theory.

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