• Offered by Physics Education Centre
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Physics
  • Areas of interest Physics
  • Academic career Postgraduate
  • Course convener
    • Prof Andrew Stuchbery
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2018
    See Future Offerings

This course will cover:

• The nucleosynthesis of U and Th, and subsequent distribution of these elements through terrestrial reservoirs.

• Changes in the geochemical behaviour of U consequent to the oxygenation of the Earth's atmosphere and the formation of different types of U deposits.

• Development of natural reactors, their detection, and the mobility of decay products.

• The use of parent-daughter U-Pb and Th-Pb decay schemes in determining the age of the Earth and other objects in the Solar System, and tracing recycling of U through the Earth.

• Uranium requirements and resources

• Uranium mining methods, milling,  and environmental monitoring related to uranium mines and mill tailings

• Processing, conversion and enrichment of uranium; separative work units (SWU)

• Fabrication of nuclear fuel rods

• Fuel utilization: energy production and burnup   

• Handling, storage and disposal of spent fuel, including transport regulations for nuclear material

• Reprocessing and use of mixed-oxide fuel (MOX)

• Physical and chemical characterization of nuclear material for safeguards and forensics

• Policy issues and proliferation concerns, including the role of the IAEA and national regulatory bodies in safeguarding the nuclear fuel cycle

Learning Outcomes

On satisfying the requirements of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

1. Appreciate the basic principles leading to the formation of uranium and thorium deposits, beginning from the formation of these elements in stellar nucleosynthesis
2. Understand and apply the principles of radioactive decay for solving problems of evolution of U/Pb and Th/Pb systems and ages of rocks and minerals
3. Describe uranium mining methods and nuclear fuel preparation
4. Engage in discussion on the environmental radioactivity consequences of uranium mining and minimizing environmental impact

5. Quantitatively evaluate alternative uranium enrichment technologies

6. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of once through versus closed nuclear fuel cycles
7. Engage in critical debate on nuclear waste disposal options

8. Describe physical and chemical methods to analyse nuclear material and appraise the use of such methods in nuclear safeguards and forensics

9. Assess the roles of the IAEA, government policy, and national or other regulators in relation to nuclear safeguards and non-proliferation

Indicative Assessment

Assessment will be based on:

• Problem sets (20%; LO 1, 2, 3,5)

• Essay (30%; LO 1-2,6-9)

• Discussion paper (40%; LO 2-3,6-9)

• Class presentation (10%; LO 1-9)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Lectures, laboratory exercises and tutorials; week-long intensive followed by individual study for essay preparation and submission

Preliminary Reading

Marcus Chown, 2001, The Magic Furnace: the search for the origin of atoms, Oxford University Press.
D. Bodansky, 2004, Nuclear Energy, Springer.



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Band 2
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $3660
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $5160
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings and Dates

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery
7502 23 Jul 2018 30 Jul 2018 31 Aug 2018 26 Oct 2018 In Person

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