The course has the purpose to give to the students the knowledge of the basic physics required to attend more specific courses in nuclear engineering and technology. At the end of the course the student should have acquired the basic concepts of relativity, atomic and nuclear physics, which he will use in the following courses of the Master degree in Nuclear Engineering. The course is based on the following items: special relativity; atomic physics with elements of quantum mechanics and structure of matter; nuclear physics, radioactive decay and radiation sources; radiation interactions with matter; introduction to statistics and simple laboratory exercises.


The course has the purpose to provide the basic knowledge on neutron transport phenomena in the core of a nuclear reactor, with main reference to the steady state and dynamic aspects having relevance for reactor design.

The main topics of the module are:

  • reminders about fundamentals of Nuclear Physics and on the interaction of neutrons with matter; definition of cross sections; the Doppler effect;
  • the neutron continuity equation, the Fick’s law and the neutron diffusion equation; analysis of the pulsed-neutron experiments in different geometries; steady-state problems with neutron source; the Green’s function; the thermal utilization factor, f;
  • the neutron slowing-down in an infinite medium, with and without absorption; the resonance escape probability factor, p; the fast fission factor;
  • the energy dependent diffusion equation; the Fermi age theory; the multi-energy group (i.e., multi-group) diffusion equations;
  • definition of the multiplication factor; the critical reactor (time dependent one-group theory with prompt neutrons only and theory based on the steady-state equation); multi-group criticality problems;
  • the reflector theory; the problem of an axial control rod (outline of the perturbation theory); the Xe and Sm poisoning of the reactor;
  • the delayed neutrons; the reactor kinetics theory with the age-diffusion approach; 
  • outline of Monte Carlo methods.

Exercises: use of an open source Monte Carlo code for the calculation of some relevant parameters of the reactor physics.