Asee peer logo

A Project Based Approach To Teaching The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Download Paper |


2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Curriculum Development and Delivery Modes in Nuclear Engineering

Tagged Division

Nuclear and Radiological

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.99.1 - 12.99.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Erich Schneider

visit author page

Dr. Schneider received his PhD in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University in 2002. During the final two years of his graduate study at Cornell, he held the position of Lecturer. From 2002-2006, he was a Technical Staff Member in the Nuclear Systems Design Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In January, 2006, Dr. Schneider joined the Mechanical Engineering faculty at the University of Texas at Austin. He is affiliated with the Nuclear and Radiation Engineering Graduate Program at that institution.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Project-Based Approach to Teaching the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Abstract

The nuclear fuel cycle – defined as the series of processes through which materials pass in the course of electricity generation – is accepted as a subject in which graduating nuclear engineering students should be well-versed.

While a technology-based, water reactor-based approach to teaching the fuel cycle has a great deal of validity, it can be argued that other approaches can offer students superior preparation to participate in today’s national (e.g. the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative and Global Nuclear Energy Partnership) and international debate regarding the future direction of the fuel cycle. The concepts generated by these and other research programs are evolving rapidly, as are the tools used to assess them. Hence, no single text can function as a comprehensive resource for a course that seeks to provide an up-to-date treatment of the fuel cycle.

A new course taught in Fall, 2006 at The University of Texas, Austin takes the systems analyst’s perspective as opposed to that of the traditional technologist. This perspective emphasizes understanding how each element of the fuel cycle contributes to the functionality of the system as a whole. The course is unique in that it draws readings, examples and case studies entirely from the contemporary literature. It also features a semester project – a fuel cycle system analysis – that requires on-campus and distance learning students to collaborate.


This is a watershed era in the enterprise of nuclear energy production. A great number of advanced reactor technologies and fuel cycles are being proposed and debated. When considering fuel cycles, policymakers require input that is not solely technical in nature, but rather folds technical factors, along with those that are economic and geopolitical in nature, into a balanced, comprehensive picture of how a fuel cycle would impact the international energy production milieu.

The intention of this paper is to present an approach to teaching the fuel cycle that prepares graduate students to engage in cross-cutting, systems-level analysis of this nature. While fuel cycle systems analysis courses are offered at some institutions, this author found that no up-to-date text – one that draws upon very recent work by the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency and others – is available. Therefore, a curriculum that draws upon recent works by these programs and agencies, using their publications in lieu of a textbook, was prepared. An extensive bibliography of these papers and reports is presented.

Objectives and Approach

Schneider, E. (2007, June), A Project Based Approach To Teaching The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--3069

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015