Nuclear Science and Nuclear Energy

The first thought that occurs to most of us when we hear the word ‘nuclear’ is atomic weapons, and the vast destruction they can create. The second thought is probably about Chernobyl. After this comes the view that this is a highly esoteric branch of science that you need a secret handshake to understand. In this lecture I aim to show that this is not the case. While the processes which take place inside the nucleus – ‘the heart of matter’ – are quite unlike any we experience in daily life, they can be understood if presented systematically. Stars are, in fact, vast nuclear machines, which produce both energy, and the elements that make for a liveable planet. The peaceful application of Nuclear Energy has been of service to humanity for over half a century, with few major problems. Unfortunately, when there is a problem, it can be devastating. How do the different types of reactors work? What can go wrong? What are the prospects for a better future?

DELIVERY MODE

  • Face-to-Face

COURSE OUTLINE

  • We start with radioactivity, and the discovery of the atom, and its nucleus. This required a radical rethink of Physics, 100 years ago. Then we look inside the nucleus at its composi-tion, and its enormous energy. A nucleus is, in fact, a balance of forces: some trying to hold it together, some trying to tear it apart. When the latter win the battle, a nucleus decays. For the heaviest nuclei, this is the process of fission.
  • Like all stars, our Sun generates its prodigious energy by fusing together light nuclei, start-ing with hydrogen. We will look at this process in some detail. For over 60 years, science has been trying to harness this power for good (not evil) here on Earth: what progress has been made? Almost all the chemical elements that make up planets and life were generated in stars, which later “spewed their guts out” for our benefit.
  • The key to harnessing nuclear fission for power generation is a controlled chain reaction. How that is achieved is the key to the different types of reactors “on the market”. We then look at research reactors, like Opal at ANSTO, and their many benefits to society. We also look at promising new small modular reactors.
  • When we think of nuclear energy we think of Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl. What went wrong in these two “accidents”, and what, if anything, went right. Finally, we will look at is-sues around the nuclear fuel cycle, and disposal vs. proliferation. Sources – mostly natural – and effects of nuclear radiation will also be covered.
$118 Limited / $106

<p>The first thought that occurs to most of us when we hear the word ‘nuclear’ is atomic weapons, and the vast destruction they can create. The second thought is probably about Chernobyl. After this

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18 Nov

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