Nuclear reactor theory

Prof. William D’Haeseleer – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Prof. Jean-Marie Noterdaeme – Universiteit Gent
Prof. Peter Baeten – Vrije Universiteit Brussel


180 hours study time

44 contact hours theory

24 contact hours excersises/lab sessions/visits

12 contact hours personal work

Learning Outcomes

  • To understand the physical processes involved in a nuclear reactor
  • To understand and be able to write down and solve the basic equations
  • To be able to simulate a reactor/source configuration as appropriate depending on:
    • number of dimensions;
    • steady state or transient;
    • number of groups;
    • delayed neutron precursors;
    • space dependent properties and grid spacing.
  • To learn how to measure neutron distributions and parameters relevant for nuclear reactors, in particular reactivity and reactivity coefficients 


  • Physics of nuclear reactors
  • Transport theory
  • Diffusion theory
  • Spatial dependence
  • Slowing down theory
  • Cell calculations
  • Neutron thermalisation
  • Multigroup equations
  • Point kinetic equations
  • Reactor dynamics including reactivity effects
  • Experimental reactor physics
Lab session with static and kinetic measurements at the BR1, Sigma pile and VENUS facility

Course material and reference books

The PowerPoint presentations of the lectures, and extensive lecture notes, are available on the BNEN website.

Other useful references:

  • J.J. Duderstadt and L.J. Hamilton, “Nuclear Reactor Analysis”, 1976 (Wiley & Sons)
  • Lamarsh, J.R., “Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory”, Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass., 1966
  • Profio, A.E., Experimental Reactor Physics, J. Wiley, 1976
  • P. Reuss, “Neutron physics”, 2008 (EDP Sciences)

Pre-assumed knowledge or prerequisites

  • Introduction to nuclear physics
  • Introduction to nuclear engineering

Grading and examination

Written examination, open book. The course contains three parts, each part is individually evaluated on the exam. The final mark will be calculated based on a weighted average on the three parts. (weighting factor roughly 1/3, 1/3, 1/3).
Lab sessions are compulsory and cannot be repeated in the second session. No report is required, but questions on the lab session might be included in the exam.