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    2023 start September 

    Nuclear Science and Technology

    Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

    This course is run jointly with the members of the Nuclear Technology Education Consortium (NTEC). Learn from world-leading academics in the important area of nuclear waste immobilisation, decommissioning and clean-up.
    Image of postgraduate materials science and engineering student using equipment with mask

    Course description

    This course is run in partnership with fellow members of the Nuclear Technology Education Consortium (Sheffield is one of the lead partners, along with Manchester and Liverpool) and gives you access to more than 90 per cent of the UK’s academic expertise in nuclear waste immobilisation, decommissioning and clean-up. 

    You’ll be based in the department’s world-leading NucleUS Immobilisation Science Laboratory, and will take eight modules on the nuclear fuel cycle. Topics include Decomissioning, Nuclear Technology and Environment and Safety. Each module includes a week at one of our partner universities.

    Some modules require overseas travel.


    Accredited by The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), The Energy Institute (EI), The Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining (IoM3) and The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)


    A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Core modules:

    Nuclear Waste Immobilisation and Disposal

    This course reviews basic approaches of nuclear waste management and gives an introduction of scientific fundamentals of nuclear waste processing and disposal. A range of topics will be considered including classification schemes, description of basic techniques of nuclear waste processing, methods of storage and disposal of different types of nuclear wastes. 

    15 credits

    Students undertake a project on a topic agreed with their allocated academic supervisor; supervisor allocation takes into accounts students' specific interests. The project is an original research investigation carried out within a research group in the Department; to develop students' abilities to interact within a research group a defined piece of group work is undertaken early in the project. All projects include a literature survey involving students reading original papers and review articles from the scientific and technical literature. Most projects involve extensive laboratory work although some may be based primarily on a survey of the published literature or computational studies. The assessment of the project includes assessment of the group work, an interim report and final report along with a presentation on the work to staff and other students and an oral examination. Conduct throughout the project is also assessed.

    60 credits

    Optional modules - one or both from:

    Radiation Shielding

    This module gives an introduction to radiation shielding merging practical problems with industry standard transport codes in order to give a good understanding of the requirements for radiation shielding.

    The aims of this module are:

    To introduce the subject of radiation shielding and illustrate solutions to the particle transport equation in the context of Monte Carlo and deterministic transport codes. Simple shielding methods will be compared with sophisticated complex calculations in order to familiarise students with the essential concepts. As well as the core material, the course has four external lecturers who are experts in their respective fields. The use of Monte Carlo and Deterministic Codes will be presented in the context of industry needs and requirements. Shielding applications and the shielding design process will be discussed. Intensive training into the use of the Monte Carlo code MCNP will be provided.

    On completion, students should have obtained:

    Demonstrate an understanding of the Particle Transport equation and the transport codes and methodologies used to solve it.
    Understand and be able to evaluate a shielding scenario using simple shielding methods.
    Demonstrate an understanding of the Monte Carlo and Deterministic methods and they are applied to radiation shielding calculations.
    Understand the systematic process that must be followed in order to design shielding to adequately protect those working with ionising radiation.
    Have an understanding of how the range of shielding solutions is consistent with common principles of radiation physics and radiological protection.

    15 credits
    Radiation and Radiological Protection

    Explains the properties of different types of radiation occurring as a result of nuclear processes and identifies means whereby levels of radiation and dosages can be detected and measured. The principles of radiation protection and shielding are outlined and demonstrated through practical experience with radioactive sources and detection equipment. The module concludes with an overview of ionising radiation regulations and legislation governing the impact of radiation on people and the environment. The safe handling of accidents is illustrated through case studies of real incidents.

    On completion, students should have obtained:

    A full understanding of the sources, types of radiation and hazards associated with nuclear processesKnowledge of radiation detection and monitoring equipmentAppreciation of the principles governing the design of radiological protection equipmentUnderstanding of Ionising Radiation Regulations

    15 credits

    Optional modules:

    Reactor Physics, Criticality and Design

    Nuclear reactors now account for a significant portion of the electrical power generated world-wide. At the same time, the past few decades have seen an ever-increasing number of industrial, medical, military, and research applications for nuclear reactors. Reactor physics is the core discipline of nuclear engineering and deals with the physical processes in reactors which are fundamental to the understanding of both operational and safety aspects of nuclear reactors. This module provides a historical background to reactor development, considers the range of possible designs, and explains the underlying nuclear physics principles and models that underpin an understanding of nuclear reactor operations.

    On completion, students should be able to:

    Compare and contrast the range of nuclear reactor designs, reactor codes, and transport/diffusion theory models used in the industry today.
    Explain the physical principles which govern criticality, radioactive decay, reactor physics and kinetics, reactor system layout, and underlying nuclear processes which form the basis of how reactors work, run and are modeled in codes.
    Derive expressions for criticality formulae, diffusion and transport equations for a variety of given situations and layouts.
    Understand the importance of cross-sections, bucklings, delayed neutrons, six factor formula variables, the function of different parts of a nuclear reactor, and the crucial role played by neutronics in criticality and in the response of a multiplying system.
    Know some background connected to the historical, environmental, and socio-political aspects of the nuclear industry, and issues related to later decommissioning.
    Appreciate the need for knowledge of risk assessment, control, and safety for a reactor, and know about some of the consequences and issues connected with historical accidents.

    15 credits
    Nuclear Fuel Cycle

    To introduce and develop subject knowledge and theoretical, conceptual and analytical skills in the nuclear fuel cycle, which encompasses mining, fuel manufacture, reprocessing, storage and recycling or disposal.

    On completion, students should be able to:

    Explain the processes involved in the front- and back-ends of the once through fuel cycle
    Critically review the advantages/disadvantages of fuel reprocessing with spent fuel management
    Critically discuss the waste arising from each stage of the nuclear fuel including segregation and disposal.
    Explore the challenges of emerging, competitive energy forms such as MOX, fast reactors and nuclear fusion.

    15 credits
    Decommissioning, Waste and Environmental Management

    A suitable introduction to the basics of nuclear decommissioning, lower activity radioactive waste and environmental management for students with no experience of the nuclear industries in the U.K.

    The module aims to introduce and develop subject knowledge and theoretical, conceptual and analytical skills in technical, environmental and policy issues and principles associated with nuclear decommissioning and waste management (principally lower activity wastes) and the environmental management thereof in the UK.

    On completion, students should be able to:

    Discuss the scientific, environmental and socio-political issues affecting the decommissioning
    Acquire, evaluate and use the principal sources of data on issues affecting the decommissioning of nuclear facilities and nuclear waste management of nuclear facilities and legacy nuclear waste management
    Critically evaluate decomissioning management.
    Critically appraise the waste management principles applicable to nuclear decommissioning.

    15 credits
    Reactor Materials and Lifetime Behaviour

    This module describes the science and engineering of reactor materials, and the factors that influence the lifetime of these materials, including corrosion, environmentally‐assisted fracture, and irradiation embrittlement. Other topics covered in this module include fracture mechanics and structural integrity, non‐destructive evaluation techniques, as well as plant monitoring and lifetime issues. Also considered are materials specifications and fabrication processes for materials used in nuclear power systems.

    On completion, students should be able to:

    Have an understanding/appreciation of the materials science structure/property relationships of key reactor materials, and how these are affected by corrosion and the environment (Light Water Reactors, AGRs).
    An understanding of the methods of structural integrity assessment of reactor pressure vessels.
    The ability to perform basic structural integrity assessment using the R6 code.
    An appreciation of the methods of non‐destructive testing and plant monitoring with real-life examples.
    An appreciation of the factors which limit the lifetime of reactor components, such as radiation damage and stress corrosion cracking.
    An appreciation of the specifications and methods of material fabrication/joining for reliable performance in nuclear power system environments.

    15 credits
    Policy, Regulation and Licensing

    The nuclear industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the UK. Regulatory issues necessarily impact upon the development of national policy in environmental and energy areas. This module covers the international and national legal frameworks for nuclear power and radioactive waste management including licensing issues covered by the Nuclear Installations Act, discharge authorisations under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 and planning for new build. The roles of the various regulatory bodies and other players are discussed. The module also addresses the role of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, decommissioning of nuclear facilities and UK radioactive waste management policies and national strategies. Students are introduced to basic legal principles as applied in the nuclear sector and are shown how to read case law and apply their knowledge to legal problems.

    On completion, students should be able to:

    explain the policy context in which the nuclear industry operates.
    list key legal instruments and explain why they have been made.
    explain the principles guiding regulation in the nuclear industry and comment on the way that they are used.
    describe clearly the governing bodies, nationally and internationally, responsible for formulating policy, promulgating laws and regulations and enforcing them
    explain clearly the responsibility of the employer and the individual in respect of ensuring nuclear safety.
    identify the legislation applicable to the student's organisation, and how this is applied.

    15 credits
    Reactor Thermal Hydraulics

    Fundamental to the design and safety of a nuclear reactor is the ability to remove energy safely from the core. This module therefore aims to describe the thermal hydraulic processes involved in the transfer of power from the core to the secondary systems of nuclear power plants. The principles of single phase and multiphase fluid dynamics and heat transfer will be studied and applied in the context of a range of different reactor types. The techniques developed will allow you to make assessments of various reactors against thermal limiting criteria.

    On completion, students should have obtained:

    An understanding of the heat transfer mechanisms in reactor systems
    An understanding of fluid flow mechanisms in reactor systems
    An appreciation of the limits on safe power removal from reactor cores
    An appreciation of computer codes used to assess limiting power
    An understanding of the influence of power conversion methods on reactor design.
    The ability to perform basic calculations of thermal hydraulic quantities in core channels.

    15 credits
    Criticality Safety Management

    This module provides a comprehensive introduction to nuclear criticality safety and the management of nuclear criticality safety in facilities, or situations, where fissile materials are encountered outside a nuclear reactor. It is designed to reflect the core competencies specified by the United Kingdom Working Party on Criticality (WPC), and consists of a basic nuclear reactor physics and fuel cycle pre-course reading component (mandatory for students who have not yet completed the N01 module) and a one-week taught component which includes a presentation from a visiting lecturer from industry/government, and an introduction to the use of Monte-Carlo codes for criticality safety analysis. The taught component is followed by a post-course criticality safety assessment that is designed to consolidate knowledge gained during the course and to enable students to join industry with a solid understanding of the criticality safety process.

    On completion, students should be able to:

    Perform a comprehensive criticality safety assessment of an operational or (hypothetical) planned facility or plant, or part therein, involved in the use, storage, or processing of fissile materials
    Which will require them to:

    Apply the appropriate regulatory legislation, guidance, or standards during this assessment

    Apply the appropriate regulatory legislation, guidance, or standards during this assessment
    Justify their analysis through the appropriate use of data, benchmarks, cross-comparison of methods, and/or sensitivity analysis.

    15 credits
    Management of the Decommissioning Process

    Before nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management programmes of work are allowed to proceed, it is essential for clear and concise business cases to be made. This module sets out the framework for the management of the decommissioning process, developing the programme with plans, making the most appropriate use of available funds and other resources, and arrangements for managing, monitoring and controlling the work.

    On completion, students should be able to:

    Understand policy and business objectives of decommissioning
    Carry out basic project financial and economic appraisals.
    Understand the importance of hazard reduction, risk management, project prioritisation, and Tolerability of Risk (ALARP) arguments
    Be conversant with modern project planning processes including Work Breakdown Structures, Organisational Breakdown Structures, , Activity Schedules, Cost Controls, and Critical Path Analysis
    Understand Nuclear Safety Culture and Philosophy
    Be knowledgeable of waste classification and characterisation approaches
    Understand the documentation required to fulfill compliant and successful decommissioning processes.

    15 credits
    Experimental Reactor Physics

    The module takes place in Vienna, Austria. The module consists of various experiments and hands-on training focused on the reactor and neutron physics, nuclear reactor dynamics, nuclear safety, and operation of nuclear reactor. The participants take active part in all experiments, and independently evaluate experimental data. The principles of neutron detection, the importance of delayed neutrons and their properties, the operating parameters of nuclear reactor, basic phenomena of reactor kinetics and dynamics are studied and demonstrated during various reactor experiments and measurements. Knowledge of the reactor I and C and safety aspects of nuclear reactor operation are gained during the hands-on reactor control

    On completion, students should be able to:

    Demonstrate a full understanding of the basic phenomena of reactor physics, behaviour of nuclear reactor and conditions for its safe operation.
    Analyse and interpret data from reactor experiments and measurements.
    Set-up neutron detection system and use it for an in-core reactor measurement.
    Determine the delayed neutrons properties, their importance and utilize them for further measurements.
    Measure and determine the neutron flux, control rod worth and reactivity by various methods.
    Analyse and explain the reactor behaviour at various operating states and conditions and the reactor response to reactivity changes
    Start-up and control zero-power reactor.
    Evaluate the experimental results, prepare the lab protocols and present them.

    15 credits
    Severe Accidents

    The ultimate safety objective of a nuclear power plant is to avoid the release of radioactive materials from the fuel of the core. For LWRs, the most likely cause of this is the loss of water from the core region, leading to a loss of suitable heat sink resulting in the eventual melting of the cladding and the collapse of the core. Modern nuclear power plants are designed so that the probability of radionuclide release occurring is very low, however should this event occur, the economic, environmental and health impacts are potentially so severe that the risk has elevated “nuclear severe accidents” as a scientific research field in its own right. Consequently, “nuclear severe accidents” has attracted billions of euros of research around the world over four decades, which has the attention of every nuclear regulator.

    This module offers an introduction to nuclear severe accidents for LWRs by first introducing basic safety principles and the history of severe accidents. The module principally focuses on the various phenomena associated with the severe accident transient, covering the thermal-hydraulics of core uncovery through to the chemistry of radionuclides. The consequences of a severe accident are also covered, including the release of fission products into the environment and the emergency response. The module will also include an overview of some of the tools and codes available and widely used within the industry.

    On completion, students should have obtained:

    a recognition of the nuclear safety principles and how they apply to preventative and mitigative measures on a nuclear power plant;
    an appreciation of the history of nuclear severe accidents and how that history has directed experimental research and plant design;
    an appreciation of computer codes used to assess severe accident transients;
    an understanding of the important severe accidents phenomena, from accident initiation to the eventual release of radionuclides;
    an understanding of the societal impact of a severe accident.

    15 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses. You'll find out what makes us special.

    Upcoming open days and campus tours


    1 year full-time


    Working alongside students and staff from across the globe, you’ll tackle real-world projects, and attend lectures, seminars and laboratory classes.


    You’ll be assessed by formal examinations, coursework assignments and a dissertation.


    Materials science and engineering is an extraordinarily interdisciplinary subject that underpins so many aspects of our society and has a huge impact in pretty much all engineering sectors from aerospace, to automotive, to the biomedical sciences, the energy sector and beyond.

    Sheffield has long been a centre of materials innovation. With a history of research excellence that can be traced back more than 135 years, this department was one of the foundation stones of the University.

    Being at the centre of such a diverse subject area, our researchers at Sheffield are solving some of the most pressing challenges faced by society.

    Our work covers solutions across all sustainability challenges from biodegradable polymers, to clean energy, to recyclability and decarbonisation within the foundation industries, to novel low-energy methods for the manufacture of materials for energy. For example we are champions of atomic energy leading the way towards effective solutions for nuclear waste immobilisation as well as designing the materials to enable atomic fusion thus providing solutions to green energy.

    We strive to give you a valuable and unforgettable university experience. By accessing state-of-the-art multidisciplinary engineering laboratories, direct contact with industrial partners, and excellent learning resources, you will be given the opportunity and support to develop the skills you need to succeed at university and flourish in your career once you graduate.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:2 undergraduate honours degree in materials, a physical science (chemistry or physics) or a related engineering subject.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

    Fees and funding

    Scholarships of up to £3000 are available on the basis of academic excellence and Access and Participation criteria. UK students only. 


    You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now


    +44 114 222 5941

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

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