Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors Masters\MSc

Postgraduate degree programme in Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors Masters/MSc:

The aim of this programme, which began in 1956, is to provide the necessary background, both in breadth and in depth, for anyone wishing to enter the nuclear industry. 

The areas of study and degree of specialisation involved have changed considerably to reflect the increasing sophistication of the field, and yet the overall breadth of the course has been maintained.

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The environmental impact from the use of fossil fuels and the uncertainties in their sources of supply has led to many alternative energy sources being proposed and investigated. However, of the non-fossil fuel sources, only nuclear fission power is at present sufficiently developed to provide an economically viable alternative to fossil fuels.

The aim of this programme – which began in 1956 – is to provide the necessary background, both in breadth and in depth, for anyone wishing to enter the nuclear industry. The areas of study and degree of specialisation involved have changed considerably to reflect the increasing sophistication of the field, and yet the overall breadth of the course has been maintained, because we feel that only in this way can new entrants to the field obtain a perspective which will be of continuous help in future careers.

Studentships are sponsored by the nuclear industry in the UK, and these provide excellent and effective entry routes into careers in this stimulating field for physicists, mathematicians, metallurgists or engineers.

A taught element from September to May is followed by a 14-week project, usually undertaken within the industry.

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Module A Nuclear Instrumentation, Radiation Dosimetry & Protection 03 16356 (20 credits)

  • Particle Detectors - 16 lectures * 
  • Neutron Radiation Physics – 7 lectures*
  • Nuclear Electronics - 6 lectures * 
  • Radiation Dosimetry - 6 lectures *
  • Radiological Protection - 12 lectures * 
  • Statistics - 6 lectures + 5 hours examples *

Module B Radiation Transport, Thermal Hydraulics & Reactor Engineering  03 16367 (20 credits)

  • Radiation & Charged Particle Transport - 12 lectures*
  • Radiation Shielding - 6 lectures *
  • Core Physics and Multiplying Media 1 - 5  lectures
  • Multiplying Media 2, (Core Physics)  - 23 lectures
  • Thermal Hydraulics & Reactor Engineering - 25 lectures
  • Environmental Impact of Nuclear Power – 4 lectures*

Module C Reactor Materials, Reactor Systems and N D E 03 16368 (20 credits) 

  • Metallurgy - 20 lectures
  • Reactor Materials - 20 lectures
  • Reactor Systems and Safety Analysis - 28 lectures
  • Nuclear Fuel Cycle - 4 lectures
  • Non-Destructive Testing - 9 lectures

Module D General Paper 03 16369 (20 credits) 

  • Reactor Kinetics – 12 lectures
  • Reactor Control - 26 lectures
  • Financial Appraisal  - 6 lectures*
  • Decommissioning - 6 lectures *
  • Industrial Lecture Series  - 10 Seminars
  • Nuclear Fusion - 10 lectures

Module E Practical Skills (40 credits) 

  • Physics Laboratory - 120 hours in the Lab*
  • Physics Metallurgy Laboratory - 12 hours
  • Computing and Numerical Analysis - 45 hours
  • Reactor Safety Exercise - One-day exercise
  • Seminars & Presentation 

Module F  Research Project (60 credits) 

  • Project work and Thesis

*     These items are taken in common with other MSc courses in the School.

This programme is also available as a 2-year part-time course.


This course consists of 180 credits. You will study all of the core modules below which
comprise 120 credits and undertake a 60-credit research project.

Nuclear Instrumentation, Radiation Dosimetry and Protection – 20 credits
– Covering Particle Detectors, Neutron Radiation Physics, Nuclear Electronics, Radiation Dosimetry, Radiological Protection and Radiation Shielding 

Radiation Transport, Thermal Hydraulics and Reactor Engineering – 20 credits
– Covering Radiation and Charged Particle Transport, Thermal Hydraulics and Reactor Engineering, Fusion, Statistics,
Reactor Physics and Reactor Kinetics 

Reactor Materials, Reactor Systems and NDE – 20 credits
– Covering Metallurgy, Reactor Systems and Safety Analysis, Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Non-Destructive Testing, Reactor Control  and Radio Chemistry.

General Paper – 20 credits
– Covering Environmental Implications of Nuclear Power, Reactor Materials, Financial Appraisal, Decommissioning and Industrial Lecture Series.

Practical Skills – 40 credits
– Covering Physics Laboratory, Physics Metallurgy Laboratory, Computing and Numerical Analysis, Reactor Safety Exercise, Seminars and Presentations.

Research Project – 60 credits
– Covering project work and thesis

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to keep them up-to-date, which may require changes to module content. Also, key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

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Fees and funding

Distinguished Alumni Scholarship scheme

We are offering awards of £2,000 per scholarship to outstanding alumni wishing to undertake Masters study at the University during 2017-18.

Tuition fees for 2017/18 are as follows:

  • UK/EU students: £8,190 full-time, £4095 part-time
  • International students: £19,890

Learn more about fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Some students on this programme receive BBSRC or EPSRC funding. 
International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

For further information contact the School directly or email

Entry requirements

A 2:2 Honours degree in a relevant subject (eg, Physics, Engineering, Mathematics or any Physical Science subject)

Learn more about entry requirements.

International students
We accept a range of qualifications from different countries – learn more about international entry requirements. Standard English language requirements apply.

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

In common with most MSc courses, for the first eight months of the course there are lectures and laboratory classes. Following the examinations in May there is a three month research project, chosen from a wide range of topics within the field. 

This project may be conducted at the University or, more frequently, arrangements can be made for this to be undertaken at an establishment within the nuclear industry. This has proved to be a popular option in recent years both in giving students an opportunity to collaborate directly with a part of the industry and in enhancing their employment prospects. 


These take place weekly throughout term time, where small-group discussions help to ensure that the material covered in lectures and practical classes is being properly assimilated by the students. Any individual problems encountered by a student in his or her course work may also be raised by them during these tutorials.  As the course progresses practice is given in answering examination-style questions and other types of problem. In addition, writing and information gathering skills are practised through the production of essays, while open discussion of the results within a tutorial class permits exercising of powers of interpretation and analysis.  The course is introduced to the facilities in the Library, including its bibliographic resources and networks and this knowledge is also practised through tutorial exercises. 


Throughout the academic year visits are made to a variety of nuclear establishments. These usually include a visit to a nuclear power station, BNFL's Springfields and Sellafield works, and to an AEA Technology site. In addition, one day is spent at a training reactor where several experiments on reactor kinetics are performed.

Typically, two thirds of our students have jobs or PhDs lined up to walk into upon completion of the course before they have even finished the MSc. Most of the remaining one third will have something within a few months of graduating, and with a total eventual recruitment into the nuclear industry of about 90%.

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Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about as you start university. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal.

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team (in each of the five academic colleges) who can give you expert advice. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you. Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CVs and job applications will help give you the edge.

If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.