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NE 161

Course Title: 
Nuclear Power Engineering
Course Units: 
Catalog Description: 
  • Three hours of lecture per week. Energy conversion in nuclear power systems; design of fission reactors; thermal and structural analysis of reactor core and plant components; thermal-hydraulic analysis of accidents in nuclear power plants; safety evaluation and engineered safety systems.
Course Prerequisite: 
  • Course(s) in fluid mechanics and heat transfer: ME 106 and 109; or ChemE 150A
  • Junior level course in thermodynamics (Engin. 115, ME 105, or ChemE 141)
Prerequisite Knowledge and/or Skills: 
  • The course uses the following knowledge and skills from prerequisite and lower-division courses:
  • solve linear, first and second order differential equations.
  • use steam tables and ideal gas relationships to assess the thermodynamic state of fluids.
  • apply mass, momentum and energy balances to control volumes.
  • estimate pressure losses for fluids flowing in channels.
  • calculate drag forces from fluid flow over objects.
  • determine heat transfer coefficients in forced and natural convection flows.
Course Objectives: 
  • illustrate, with examples drawn from reactor systems, the thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid mechanics and structural phenomena which control reactor performance and safety.
  • show how complex thermal hydraulics phenomena are currently understood and modeled through scaling, analysis, empirical data correlation, and numerical modeling.
  • introduce students to the specific features of light water reactors (LWRs) now used commercially, of passive heat removal systems for future LWRs, and of gas and metal cooled reactor types that may take their place in the future.
  • show students the principles of defense in depth and of reactor safety analysis.
Course Outcomes: 
  • perform mass, momentum and energy balances on different reactor components, determining thermodynamic states within closed flow loops, and estimate the thermal efficiency of Rankine and Brayton power cycles.
  • solve steady heat conduction problems beginning from the differential form of the conduction equation.
  • discuss the implications of reactor-specific parameters (fuel thermal conductivity, gap conductance) on fuel centerline temperature.
  • find pressure loss in single-phase incompressible and compressible flow and two-phase flow.
  • find heat transfer coefficients given forced or natural convection conditions.
  • use CHF correlations to determine if a particular reactor assembly channel is too hot.
  • estimate the stress induced in structural components from water hammer and from temperature gradients arising from heat conduction.
  • know the principal capabilities and limitations of the major thermal hydraulics codes, their use in modeling and sensitivity studies
  • describe the major safety issues associated with light water reactors, as well as the principal differences between "next-generation" light water, gas, and metal cooled reactors and current generation LWRs.
Topics Covered: 
  • Descriptions of nuclear power plants and operations.
  • Thermodynamics of nuclear power
  • Nuclear power cycles.
  • Fluid systems analysis and introduction to two-phase flow.
  • Heat generation in nuclear reactors.
  • Thermal hydraulic design of reactor cores and plant components
  • Structural analysis and design.
  • Fluid transients.
  • Reactor safety, engineered safety system design.
Textbook(s) and/or Other Required Materials: 
  • J.H. Rust, "Nuclear Power Plant Engineering," Haralson Publishing Company.
Class/Laboratory Schedule: 
  • This is primarily a lecture course, meeting two times a week for 80-minute lectures.
Contribution of Course to Meeting the Professional Component: 
  • This course contributes primarily to the students' knowledge of engineering topics, and does provide design experience.
  • Heat transfer and fluid mechanics are central to the thermal performance and safety of fission and fusion power plants, and thus this course is required for students in the General Nuclear Engineering area of emphasis which covers fission and fusion energy systems. This course illustrates, through specific examples, the thermal hydraulics analysis of nuclear power systems, with particular emphasis on light water reactors. The course provides specific illustrations important thermal-hydraulics design concepts, in particular defense in depth, phenomena identification and ranking, and the application of sensitivity studies to safety analysis and design optimization.
Relationship of Course to Degree Program Objectives: 
  • This course primarily serves students in the department. The information below describes how the course contributes to the undergraduate program objectives.
  • This course contributes to the NE program objectives by providing education in a fundamental area (reactor engineering) important for a career in nuclear power engineering. It does not provide students with direct design experience, but includes substantial discussion and illustration of design issues. The central theme of safety analysis also generates discussion of environmental and contemporary issues for nuclear energy.
Assessment of Student Progress Toward Course Objectives: 
  • Weekly (nearly) problem sets: 20%
  • Two midterm Exams 20% (each)
  • Final Exam: 40%