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Combining Simulations Of Basic Reactor Experiments With Lectures In A Nuclear Engineering Course

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Trends in Nuclear Engineering Education I

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.304.1 - 8.304.6



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Paper Authors

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Frank Wicks

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

Paper ASEE 2003-2368, Nuclear and Radiological Engineering Division

“Combining Simulations of the Basic Reactor Experiments with Lectures in a Nuclear Engineering Course” Professor Frank Wicks Mechanical Engineering Department, Union College


Nuclear Engineering Departments were created at most engineering colleges and universities during the 1950s and 1960s. These schools typically procured a research or test reactor which became the centerpiece of the department. It had dual use for research and academic instruction. The author was the Supervisor and Instructor at such a critical facility at which a Nuclear Engineering Laboratory Course was based.

The basic reactor experiments that were performed were quite similar to what the pioneers Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner and others performed in Chicago in 1942 and subsequently at the plutonium producing reactor in the state of Washington. These experiments remain similar to those done at the electric utility reactors and by the nuclear navy at times of refueling and startup.

The experiments include 1) confirming the ability to measure neutrons and calibrating the instrument channels by testing and calibrating to assure that neutrons and only neutrons are measured, 2) starting with an empty core and then loading fuel and monitoring neutron multiplication as a function of fuel loading with rods in and out, 3) measurement of reactivity vs rod position once the fuel is fully loaded, 4) measurement of reactivity vs temperature to assure hands off stability, 5) measurement of reactivity vs void at various core locations, 6) measurements of reactivity vs boron and 7) mapping the flux for determining power distribution in the reactor.

Unfortunately, many nuclear engineering departments have been eliminated or merged with other departments. Most instructional reactors have been shut down. Furthermore there have been no nuclear engineering text books written in recent years.

However, many graduate students have nuclear industry related employment and opportunities and remain interested in having a nuclear engineering course as part of their program. The challenge is how to effectively structure such a course. Some students may have extensive nuclear industry experience and others with minimal prior knowledge.

The author has developed such a course that combines instruction from an out of print text book and simulated reactor experiments to provide a context for the text book and lecture material. The author will describe this course along with student comments that have been consistently favorable.

Wicks, F. (2003, June), Combining Simulations Of Basic Reactor Experiments With Lectures In A Nuclear Engineering Course Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12150

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