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Nuclear Reactor Theory
Prof. John R. White

Summary Course Description:
This course gives the necessary background to understand the design, operation, and control of nuclear reactors, with emphasis on what is happening in the reactor core and surrounding regions. Topics of interest include the development of the multigroup neutron balance equation, the analysis of neutron diffusion in non-multiplying media and within various critical reactor configurations, and the study of reactor kinetics and control (including reactivity effects and their impact on reactor safety). Longer term effects involving fission product poisoning and fuel depletion are also reviewed. The connection of reactor theory to real reactor design and operation, with a strong link to actual operation of the UMass-Lowell Research Reactor (UMLRR), is also emphasized throughout this course.

Last Taught: The last time I taught this course was during Fall 2016.

Course-Related Educational Resources:
I have taught different versions of this introductory reactor theory course many times over the past 30+ years. In the current Nuclear Engineering (NE) sequence at UMass-Lowell, the 1-semester junior-level Reactor Theory course follows a prerequisite sophomore-level course called Fundamentals of Nuclear Science and Engineering, where the students learn about basic atomic and nuclear physics, basic nuclear reactions and the conservation laws that govern these interactions, various radioactive decay and transmutation processes, and the interaction of neutrons and gamma rays with matter. Thus, after a very brief review, the Reactor Theory course jumps directly into the development of the neutron balance equation, which is then followed with the study of steady-state reactor theory, and finally the course finishes with an exploration of the time-dependent reactor.

In Fall 2016, a large set of formal lecture notes and other resource materials (including a series of illustrative Matlab-based GUIs) that were generated over the years were used in lieu of a formal text for this course. However, the students were encouraged to use the text by John R. Lamarsh and Anthony J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3rd Ed., as a key reference source, since many of my course materials were initially based on this text.

Overall, there is a lot of "really good stuff" here so, if you are studying basic Reactor Theory, I encourage you to check it out. I really think you will find a lot of the material here quite informative and quite useful in your studies...    Enjoy!!!

Resource List:
Formal Lecture Notes

Slides from Classroom Presentations

Matlab-based GUIs and Demos

Fall 2016 HW Assignments (with Solutions) and Exams

Last updated by Prof. John R. White (February 2020)

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