Skip to main content

Safety of nuclear power plants

Prof. Matthias Vanderhaegen – Universiteit Gent
Prof. Pierre- Etienne Labeau – Université Libre de Bruxelles
Seminars: Prof. Greet Maenhout – Universiteit Gent


141 hours study time

  • 42 contact hours theory
  • 6 contact hours exercises/laboratory sessions/visits
  • 4 hours seminar
  • 0 hours additional personal work (reading etc.)

  • To introduce the students to methods and practices supporting the defense-in-depth approach for nuclear power plants.

    More specifically:

    • To present elements of nuclear safety philosophy. 
    • To understand how to insure the link between nuclear safety and reactor operation. 
    • To master all the contributors to the core reactivity balance and power distribution in normal operation. 
    • To understand specific measurement and control issues in nuclear reactors. 
    • To introduce the basic notions and techniques of system reliability engineering. 
    • To understand the concepts of safety analyses (both deterministic and probabilistic), and the fundamentals of probabilistic safety analysis (PSA).
    • To present some PSA-based applications.
  • Operation & Control (28h)

    • Cycle specific safety evaluation methodology.
    • Basic principles of the in-core fuel management based on the linear reactivity model.
    • Reactivity coefficients (moderator, Doppler), neutron poisons (xenon, samarium, …), their variation with burnup and core state parameters and their impact on core power distribution.
    • Reactivity control means (boron, control rods, burnable poisons) and their sensitivity to the core burnup and in-core fuel management parameters.
    • Operating modes, operating limits and protection diagram.
    • Fuel rod design and thermal-mechanical behavior in normal operation and accidental conditions.
    • Thermal-design procedures and elaboration of the core thermal limits and core protections.
    • Core control, surveillance and protection systems
    Optional visits and laboratory session:
    • Visit of a Nuclear Power Plant.
    • Two day session of compact and full scope Nuclear Power Plant simulator.

    Reliability & Safety (14h theory + 6h exercises)

    • Introduction to nuclear safety and defence in depth
    • Concept of risk, individual and societal risk criteria, release limits, core damage frequency limit,
    • safety goals at function or system level
    • Deterministic vs. probabilistic safety analyses
    • Probabilistic safety assessment (PSA) methodology and PSA levels
    • Component reliability
    • Fault tree and event tree analysis
    • Markov analysis
    • Common cause failure analysis
    • Elements of human reliability analysis
    • Elements of the level 2 and level 3 PSA methodology
    • Limits of the classical PSA methodology
    • PSA-based applications

    Seminar: description of nuclear accidents (TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima-Daiichi…)

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

    Other useful references:

    Operation & Control
    • Collection Génie Atomique "La chaudière des réacteurs à eau sous pression" Ed. EDP Sciences, 2004
    • Collection Génie Atomique « Exploitation des coeurs REP », Ed. EDP Sciences, 2008
    • USNRC Technical Training Center, « Pressurized Water Reactor Systems”
    Reliability & Safety
    • McCormick, N., Reliability and Risk Analysis – Methods and Nuclear Power Applications, Academic Press, New York, 1981.
    • Henley, E.J. and Kumamoto, H., Reliability Engineering and Risk Analysis, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, 1981.
    • Modarres, M., What Every Engineer Should Know about Reliability and Risk Analysis, Dekker Inc., New York, 1993.
    • Kumamoto, H., and Henley, E.J., Probabilistic Risk Assessment and Management for Engineers and Scientists, 2nd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2001.
    • Bedford, T. and Cooke, R., Probabilistic Risk Analysis, Foundations and Methods, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2001.
  • Courses in the following field

    • Nuclear reactor theory
    • Nuclear thermal hydraulics
  • Operation & Control

    First and second session: Individual oral exam, closed book, written preparation

    Reliability & Safety

    First and second session: Written examination (closed book).

    • The grade will be determined by weighing the grades on the separate parts, in proportion to the number of ECTS per part. In case of a failure for one of the parts, the examination committee can decide to penalize by lowering the final grade.
    • The examination of the separate parts of this course can be scheduled on multiple days.

Share this page