Nuclear Energy: Science, Systems and Society
offers an introduction to the basic physics of nuclear energy and radiation, with an emphasis on the unique attributes and challenges of nuclear energy as a low-carbon solution. Peaceful applications of ionizing radiation to help mankind, such as reactors for materials science research, nuclear medicine, and security initiatives, will be introduced.
The course will explore fission energy, establishing the scientific, engineering, and economic basis for fission reactors, and will describe the state of the art in nuclear reactor technology.
We will also learn about magnetic fusion energy research, with lectures covering the scientific and engineering basis of tokamaks, the state of the art in world fusion experiments, and the MIT vision for high-magnetic field fusion reactor.
In addition, the course also includes an optional hands-on section, where you will be able acquire radiation detectors and use them to explore radiation in the world around them, using guided exercises available on-line.
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Module 1: Introduces the basics of ionizing radiation – what it is, where it comes from, and how it is used to benefit humanity. We specifically focus on the origins and energetics of ionizing radiation, and quantify what radiation dose is, where it comes from, and how much people can safely tolerate with no adverse effects.
Module 2: Will articulate attributes and challenges of nuclear energy as a commercial source of electric power. Will focus on potential contribution of nuclear energy to decarbonization of the power sector, including discussion of nuclear power plant economics and safety. A few innovations in nuclear energy systems will be described.
Module 3: Will cover the basics of nuclear fusion, including fundamental plasma physics concepts needed to understand the prospects for development of magnetic confinement fusion. Innovation and future directions will be described.
Module 4: Guides you in exploring radiation background around you with a Geiger counter, assembled by MIT and with a companion iOS or Android app for your smartphone. Learn how radiation dose varies with distance, where you can find ionizing radiation in your environment, and help us map worldwide radiation background levels as part of the largest public radiation data sourcing project there is!
Jacopo Buongiorno, Anne White, Michael Short and John Parsons