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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Introduction to Nuclear Engineering and Ionizing Radiation (Fall 2016)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via MIT OpenCourseWare


Course Features

  • Video lectures
  • Captions/transcript
  • Assignments: problem sets with solutions
  • Exams and solutions

Educator Features

  • Instructor insights
  • Podcast - audio

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to nuclear science and its engineering applications. It describes basic nuclear models, radioactivity, nuclear reactions, and kinematics; covers the interaction of ionizing radiation with matter, with an emphasis on radiation detection, radiation shielding, and radiation effects on human health; and presents energy systems based on fission and fusion nuclear reactions, as well as industrial and medical applications of nuclear science.


1. Radiation History to the Present — Understanding the Discovery of the Neutron.
2. Radiation Utilizing Technology.
3. Nuclear Mass and Stability, Nuclear Reactions and Notation, Introduction to Cross Section.
4. Binding Energy, the Semi-Empirical Liquid Drop Nuclear Model, and Mass Parabolas.
5. Mass Parabolas Continued, Stability, and Half Life.
6. The Q-Equation — The Most General Nuclear Reaction.
7. Q-Equation Continued and Examples.
8. Radioactive Decay — Modes, Energetics, and Trends.
10. Radioactive Decay Continued.
11. Radioactivity and Series Radioactive Decays.
12. Numerical Examples of Activity, Half Life, and Series Decay.
13. Practical Radiation Counting Experiments.
14. Photon Interactions with Matter I — Interaction Methods and Gamma Spectral Identification.
15. Photon Interaction with Matter II — More Details, Shielding Calculations.
16. Nuclear Reactor Construction and Operation.
17. Ion-Nuclear Interactions I — Scattering and Stopping Power Derivation, Ion Range.
18. Ion-Nuclear Interactions II — Bremsstrahlung, X-Ray Spectra, Cross Sections.
19. Uses of Photon and Ion Nuclear Interactions — Characterization Techniques.
20. How Nuclear Energy Works.
21. Neutron Transport.
22. Simplifying Neutron Transport to Neutron Diffusion.
23. Solving the Neutron Diffusion Equation, and Criticality Relations.
24. Transients, Feedback, and Time-Dependent Neutronics.
25. Review of All Nuclear Interactions and Problem Set 7 Help.
26. Chernobyl — How It Happened.
27. Nuclear Materials — Radiation Damage and Effects in Matter.
28. Chernobyl Trip Report by Jake Hecla.
29. Nuclear Materials Science Continued.
30. Radiation Dose, Dosimetry, and Background Radiation.
31. Frontiers in Nuclear Medicine, Where One Finds Ionizing Radiation (Background and Other Sources).
32. Chemical and Biological Effects of Radiation, Smelling Nuclear Bullshit.
33. Long-Term Biological Effects of Radiation, Statistics, Radiation Risk.
34. Radiation Hormesis.
35. Food Irradiation and Its Safety.

Taught by

Prof. Michael Short

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