Introduction to nuclear energy

Prof. William D’Haeseleer – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Prof. Andre Poucet – Kathlolieke Universiteit Leuven


86 hours study time

20 contact hours theory

4 contact hours excersises/lab sessions/visits

20 contact hours personal work

Learning Outcomes

  • To place the world and the Belgian nuclear energy production in its economic, social, technical and cultural context
  • To give a first overview of nuclear electricity generation and an overall introduction to reactor and plant engineering


  • Situation of nuclear power in Belgium
  • Environmental issues
  • Birds-eye view of nuclear power generation: principle of generating electricity by nuclear  means (fission; chain reaction; heat transfer to coolant; turbine; alternator); fissile & fertile materials; burn up; production of fission products; breeding; current types of power plants (PWR, BWR,…); future types of power plants (LWR-type, gas cooled, ADS, …); introduction to the fuel cycle; front end, back end; introduction to safety aspects of nuclear reactors (criticality; core melt); engineered safety systems; risk; difference with research reactors & fusion reactors; proliferation issues & safeguards
  • Economics of nuclear power generation: European Utility Requirements; life time of existing NPP’s; cost of nuclear kWh; investment costs of new types NPP’s; construction time and licensing process; decommissioning costs; internalisation of waste management; external costs
  • Public perception & communication (media, general public, public authorities)

Course material and reference books

Textbook followed:

  • John R. Lamarsh & Anthony J. Baratta, “Introduction to Nuclear Engineering”; 3-rd Ed., Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2001 (ISBN 0-201-82498-1)

Other interesting books:

  • Ronald Allen Knief, “Nuclear Engineering; Theory and Technology of Commercial Nucler Power”; 2-nd Ed., Taylor & Francis, Washington DC, 1992 (ISBN 1-56032-089-3)
  • David Bodansky, “Nuclear Energy; Principles, Practices, and Prospects”; 2-nd Ed., Springer, Berlin/New York, 2004 (ISBN 0-387-20778-3)

Pre-assumed knowledge or prerequisites

Students are supposed to have a solid knowledge in basis engineering sciences such as thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, material science etc. (Level of electro-mechanical university graduated engineers is optimal).

Grading and examination

First and second session: oral examination, open book.
Attendance to seminars is compulsory, but the content is not part of the oral exam.

Open book preparation of two or three (generally overview) questions. Students can take notes during the 30 min preparation. Using the just made notes, students will then be interrogated orally to check whether they have thoroughly understood the study material. Questions are oriented towards understanding and insight.