Explaining difficult nuclear engineering concepts

One of the objectives of this course is to have the students practice explaining difficult concepts related to
nuclear engineering to non-scientific audiences of different levels. Your task is to write a “box” in a high
school science text, possibly with illustrations. The text is designed for high school students in a science
class intended for students heading into majors other than science and engineering. Research the subject, and
write a summary , designed to explain the subject to these students. Assume the reader already know about
atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, atomic number and mass, etc.

Try to put yourself in the minds of your high school colleagues who headed into other majors or possibly
college-educated family members (try your explanations on them at Thanksgiving), and who might be interested
in finding out some things about nuclear power. Remember to write clearly and concisely, but also strive to
make the subject interesting to your audience. Do not assume knowledge, but attempt to explain any physical or
technical concepts in layman’s terms. You are free to use the resources on the web; however, you need to write
with your own words. Do not use text from the web or anywhere (this will be checked.

• In explaining things to others it is well to have the concepts firmly understood by ourselves. It is for
sure that if you don’t understand it yourselves you will not be understood by others.
• The best explanations avoid being paternalistic or showing invalid analogies . The challenge is to be
accurate and yet bring the concepts down to earth so they can understand it.

The fact that this is nuclear power make these explanations more challenging, as people’s reactions tend to be
more polarized than in other fields. However, as nuclear engineers this is the type of explanation you will be
giving during your whole lives, so it is good to learn how to do it well

In each case the sub-concepts listed underneath need to be explained also.

1. What is a breeder reactor?
• Discuss nuclear fission/energy released; creation of fissile nuclides; breeding ratio.
• Discuss Fissile and fertile nuclides; Different fuel cycles
• Expand on the impact of using breeder reactors more extensively (for instance, impact on uranium reserves)
• Discuss some concerns of breeder reactors (accidents, reprocessing, proliferation, etc.). Why can breeders
increase proliferation risk?
• Operating breeders: a quick summary of what is operational.



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