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The Open University

Understanding Nuclear Power

The Open University via FutureLearn

This course may be unavailable.


Find out what role nuclear power might play in our energy future

Nuclear power remains contentious – does it offer a sustainable energy future? Or do the risks outweigh the benefits? This online course will answer such questions.

Despite accidents like Fukushima Daiichi, many countries are building new nuclear power plants. You’ll look at the engineering and financial aspects of these large infrastructures; learn about the technologies involved; and explore how fuels and radioactive waste should be managed.

You’ll also examine the outlook for nuclear power, exploring future challenges for companies and countries, and how they can be overcome.

This course is intended for those with a basic understanding of nuclear energy. You’ll need to be familiar with the following concepts: protons, neutrons, elements, isotopes; the difference between nuclear fission energy and nuclear fusion energy; alpha, beta and gamma radiation; radioactive decay; the difference between momentum and kinetic energy; the separate roles played by conduction and convection in heat transfer; the basic concept of a nuclear reactor; and finally the probability of four coin tosses yielding four ‘heads’ results.

If you’re new to this area we’d suggest trying The Science of Nuclear Energy course first.

Taught by

William (Bill) Nuttall and Mark Wenman


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