Syllabus for NUC-365



This course is a study of fundamentals associated with neutron properties and behavior in light water reactors. Course content includes mass-energy relationships, binding energy, radioactivity, neutron reactions with matter, neutron cross sections, neutron flux, neutron reaction rates, fissionable and fissile fuels, fission reaction, neutron production, neutron life-cycle, four-factor and six-factor formulas, the effect of reactivity on neutron multiplication, neutron flux and reactor power, reactivity, subcritical multiplication, prompt and delay neutron factors, neutron sources. The course topics also include the reactor period, reactivity coefficients, control rod worth, fission product poisons, fuel burnup, and decay heat removal when the reactor is shutdown.


  1. Nuclear Structure, Chart of the Nuclides, Radioactivity, and Interactions with Matter
  2. Neutron Production, Cross Section, Flux, Moderating Mechanisms
  3. Steady State Reactor, Critical Size, Neutron and Power Distribution
  4. Reactivity and Reactivity Coefficients (moderator, fuel, control rods, voids)
  5. Reactor Period, Startup, Steady State Operation, Shutdown and Decay Heat Removal
  6. Fission Product Poisoning, Fuel Burnup


After completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. CO1 Use the Chart of the Nuclides to examine nuclear structure as it pertains to stable nuclides and radioactive nuclides where particle and gamma ray emission processes occur.
  2. CO2 Describe neutron interactions with matter including the fission reaction, its energy release, and the difference between fissionable and fissile fuels.
  3. CO3 Discuss neutron production reactions including the difference between prompt and delayed neutrons.
  4. CO4 Describe neutron properties and processes as they relate to absorption, scattering and moderation.
  5. CO5 Explain the neutron life cycle in terms of the four factor and six factor formulas.
  6. CO6 Calculate thermal power and power peaking factor given a neutron flux distribution.
  7. CO7 Define criticality in terms of neutron multiplication, keff, and reactivity.

  1. CO8 Analyze, in terms of reactivity coefficients, the effects of coolant and fuel temperature, rod position, boric acid concentration in the moderator, and void formations for steady state reactor operation.
  2. CO9 Discuss the time dependent behavior of neutrons and their effect on the reactor startup rate and subsequent power changes.
  3. CO10 Evaluate reactor shutdown in terms of neutron population and the residual heat in the core.
  4. CO11 Analyze the buildup and equilibrium concentration of Xenon and Samarium during reactor operations, including the accumulation during reactor shutdown.
  5. CO12 Discuss how fuel burnup is accommodated during reactor operation.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. These textbooks are available online and can be downloaded yourself.

Required Textbook

  1. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (September 2004). Reactor Physics. Education and Training, Nuclear Safety and Security. Available online at

  1. Nuclides and Isotopes – Chart of the Nuclides   17th Edition is available from Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) Publisher: Lockheed Martin, GE Nuclear Energy

  1. Department of Energy. (January 1993). DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Nuclear Physics and Reactor  Theory Volume 1 of 2 (DOE-HDBK-1019/1-93). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy. Available online at

  1. Department of Energy. (January 1993). DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Nuclear Physics and Reactor  Theory Volume 2 of 2 (DOE-HDBK-1019/2-93). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy. Available online at


Reactor Fundamentals is a three-credit online course, consisting of six (6) modules. Modules include an overview, topics, learning objectives, study materials, and activities. Module titles are listed below.

  1. Module 1: Nuclear Structure, Chart of the Nuclides, Radioactivity, and Interactions with Matter

Course objectives covered in this module: 1, 2

  1. Module 2: Neutron Production, Cross Section, Flux, Moderating Mechanisms

Course objectives covered in this module: 3, 4

  1. Module 3: Steady State Reactor, Critical Size, Neutron and Power Distribution

Course objectives covered in this module: 5, 6

  1. Module 4: Reactivity and Reactivity Coefficients (moderator, fuel, control rods, voids)

Course objectives covered in this module: 7, 8

  1. Module 5: Reactor Period, Startup, Steady State Operation, Shutdown

Course objectives covered in this module: 9, 10

  1. Module 6: Fission Product Poisoning, Fuel Burnup

Course objectives covered in this module: 11, 12


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in online discussion forums, complete written assignments, take three online quizzes, and complete a final paper. See below for more details.

Consult the course Calendar for due dates.

Discussion Forums

This course requires you to participate in six (6) graded discussion forums. There is also an ungraded but required introductions forum in module 1.

Online discussions provide an opportunity for you to interact with your classmates. During this aspect of the course, you respond to prompts that assist you in developing your ideas, you share those ideas with your classmates, and you comment on their posts. Discussion board interactions promote development of a community of learners, critical thinking, and exploratory learning.

Please participate in online discussions as you would in constructive face-to-face discussions. You are expected to post well-reasoned and thoughtful reflections for each item, making reference, as appropriate, to your readings. You are also expected to reply to your classmates' posts in a respectful, professional, and courteous manner. You may, of course, post questions asking for clarification or further elucidation on a topic.

Written Assignments

You are required to complete six (6) written assignments. The written assignments are on a variety of topics associated with the course modules.


There are three unproctored module quizzes for this course. Quiz 1 covers modules 1 and 2, Quiz 2 covers modules 3 and 4, and Quiz 3 covers modules 5 and 6. The quizzes should be taken after you complete the reading assignments, online discussions, and written assignments for each related module. Each quiz includes twenty (20) multiple choice questions. You have up to 60 minutes to complete the quiz and may take it only once.

Final Paper

The Final Paper should cover a relevant topic in the course. It should represent further research into this topic and embrace three or more scholarly publications. You are required first to submit an outline that describes the paper topic and references that will be used. The mentor will review and approve your research topic before you complete the full paper. Your final paper should be at least six pages in length, not including cover page, table of contents, appendices, or other similar appurtenant material.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

  1. Online discussions (6)—24 percent
  2. Written assignments (6)—24 percent
  3. Quizzes (3)—21 percent
  4. Final paper—31 percent

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a nonarea of study course), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings, etc.).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

  1. Read carefully the entire Syllabus, making sure that all aspects of the course are clear to you and that you have all the materials required for the course.

  1. Take the time to read the entire Online Student Handbook. The Handbook answers many questions about how to proceed through the course, how to schedule exams, and how to get the most from your educational experience at Thomas Edison State College.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the learning management systems environment—how to navigate it and what the various course areas contain. If you know what to expect as you navigate the course, you can better pace yourself and complete the work on time.

  1. If you are not familiar with Web-based learning be sure to review the processes for posting responses online and submitting assignments before class begins.

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:

  1. To stay on track throughout the course, begin each week by consulting the course Calendar. The Calendar provides an overview of the course and indicates due dates for submitting assignments, posting discussions, and scheduling and taking examinations.
  2. Check Announcements regularly for new course information.


Students at Thomas Edison State College are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State College expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the College insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty takes the following forms:

  1. Cheating
  2. Plagiarizing (including copying and pasting from the Internet without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources)
  3. Fabricating information or citations
  4. Facilitating acts of dishonesty by others
  5. Unauthorized access to examinations or the use of unauthorized materials during exam administration
  6. Submitting the work of another person or work previously used without informing the mentor
  7. Tampering with the academic work of other students

Academic dishonesty will result in disciplinary action and possible dismissal from the College. Students who submit papers that are found to be plagiarized will receive an F on the plagiarized assignment, may receive a grade of F for the course, and may face dismissal from the College.

A student who is charged with academic dishonesty will be given oral or written notice of the charge. If a mentor or College official believes the infraction is serious enough to warrant referral of the case to the academic dean, or if the mentor awards a final grade of F in the course because of the infraction, the student and the mentor will be afforded formal due process.

If a student is found cheating or using unauthorized materials on an examination, he or she will automatically receive a grade of F on that examination. Students who believe they have been falsely accused of academic dishonesty should seek redress through informal discussions with the mentor, through the office of the dean, or through an executive officer of Thomas Edison State College.


Using someone else's work as your own is plagiarism. Although it may seem like simple dishonesty, plagiarism is against the law. Thomas Edison State College takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing will be severely penalized. If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism.  (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > "Citing Sources.")

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else's. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

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