Before looking in detail at the physics of nuclear power there will be a discussion of the role of nuclear power in today’s energy market. The module then looks at the physics underpinning the production of electrical power by current fission reactors and proposed fusion reactors. It will introduce the basic nuclear physics of the processes of fission and fusion, putting this in the context of nuclear binding energies. By studying the processes of neutron production, moderation and absorption we will be able to derive a model for the neutron distribution in the core of a fission reactor and use this to
calculate conditions required to sustain a nuclear chain reaction. Control and safety of fission reactors will be examined as will a number of accidents. About a third of the module will be devoted to the study of emerging terrestrial fusion systems, which promise fewer of the radioactive waste products associated with fission reactors. The basic ideas of fusion reactions in plasmas will be discussed as well as current and future reactor designs.