• Offered by Research School of Physics
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Classification Advanced
  • Course subject Physics
  • Areas of interest Physics
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Prof Andrew Stuchbery
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2022
    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

Upon successful completion, 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 minimising 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

  1. • Lab work (20) [LO 1,2,4,8]
  2. • Essay (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9]
  3. • Problem sets (40) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9]

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The expected workload will consist of approximately 130 hours throughout the semester including:

• Face-to face component which may consist of a week-long intensive program which will include lectures and laboratory work.

• Approximately 100 hours of self directed study which will include essay preparation and submission.

Inherent Requirements

To be determined

Prescribed Texts



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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2022 $4200
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $6000
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6253 25 Jul 2022 01 Aug 2022 31 Aug 2022 28 Oct 2022 In Person N/A

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