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Nuclear energy: introduction

Prof. Geert Van den Branden – KU Leuven


90 hours study time

  • 20 contact hours theory
  • 15 contact hours exercises/laboratory sessions/visits
  • 5 hours additional personal work (reading etc.)

    • 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
    • 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; interaction ionizing radiation with matter and
      elementary aspects of radiation protection.
    • 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
    • Compatibility of nuclear electricity generation with sustainable energy provision
    • Situation of nuclear power in Belgium, Europe and worldwide
    • Public perception & communication (media, general public, public authorities).
  • 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)
  • 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).

  • 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

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