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Online course

Understanding Nuclear Power

Learn more about nuclear power – from the risks and the benefits, to the technology and its future use.

Understanding Nuclear Power

Find out what role nuclear power might play in our energy future

Nuclear power remains contentious – does it offer a sustainable energy future? Or do the risks outweigh the benefits? This online course will answer such questions.

Despite accidents like Fukushima Daiichi, many countries are building new nuclear power plants. You’ll look at the engineering and financial aspects of these large infrastructures; learn about the technologies involved; and explore how fuels and radioactive waste should be managed.

You’ll also examine the outlook for nuclear power, exploring future challenges for companies and countries, and how they can be overcome.

When would you like to start?

  • Available now
  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Evaluate the key policy, environmental and economic dimensions of building new civil nuclear power capacity.
  • Explore the scientific and engineering dimensions of generating nuclear.
  • Evaluate nuclear power’s contribution to the climate control debate and current EU policy.
  • Explore the management of waste produced by operating nuclear reactors.
  • Debate the role of nuclear power in a modern energy mix.

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for those with a basic understanding of nuclear energy. You’ll need to be familiar with the following concepts: protons, neutrons, elements, isotopes; the difference between nuclear fission energy and nuclear fusion energy; alpha, beta and gamma radiation; radioactive decay; the difference between momentum and kinetic energy; the separate roles played by conduction and convection in heat transfer; the basic concept of a nuclear reactor; and finally the probability of four coin tosses yielding four ‘heads’ results.

If you’re new to this area we’d suggest trying The Science of Nuclear Energy course first.

Who will you learn with?

Mark Wenman

Mark Wenman is a Lecturer in Nuclear Engineering with a specific interest in engineering materials used in reactor systems.

William (Bill) Nuttall

I am Professor of Energy at The Open University. My main focus is on energy technology and policy and a major part of my work relates to nuclear power. My original background was in physics.

Who developed the course?

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

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Join this course


  • Access to this course for 7 weeks
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes

Upgrade - $64

  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • A Statement of Participation when you complete over half the course