PE Nuclear Exam Preparation Module Program—Learning Objectives
Below is a listing of the learning objectives for each module in the program.
Introduction to the Nuclear PE Exam
Registering for the Exam
- Know how to register with your state board.
- Know how to set up a MyNCEES account and register for the exam.
- Discuss the date and format of the PE Exam in Nuclear Engineering.
- Discuss appropriate reference materials and where they may be obtained.
Preparations for the Exam
- Discuss how to prepare prior to taking the exam.
- Discuss appropriate reference materials and what items can be brought to the exam.
- Describe the exam check-in process and scoring issues.
- Give a brief history of the discovery of radioactivity, nuclear fission, nuclear weapons, and nuclear power.
Agencies, Regulators, and Professional Organizations (PDF only)
- Become familiar with the various agencies, regulators, and professional organizations that are involved with the nuclear field.
Introduction to Units (PDF only)
- Appropriate units are needed to arrive at correct answers.
- Be consistent with the system of units (SI or USCS) used throughout the problem, for all the parts.
- Units can help you check your answers; e.g., if a question is asking for power and you obtain the result in the units of energy, you will want to check for errors.
- If you choose to convert the values in the question to a different system from what is given, be sure to convert back!
This topic also includes the following modules (PDFs only):
-Unit Conversions: Nuclear Physics and Basic Units
-Unit Conversions: Flow Calculations
-Unit Conversions: Energy and Power
-Constants and Units
Fundamentals of Nuclear Structure
- Identify the parts of an atom.
- Understand the difference between atom, element, and isotope.
- Recognize the symbol for an isotope and understand the difference between atomic number (Z) and atomic mass (A).
- Describe the fundamental particles in nuclear engineering.
- Understand the atomic mass unit and the relative masses of the fundamental particles.
- Recognize photons and how they relate to the electromagnetic spectrum.
- Describe electron charge (negative) and importance for chemical bonding.
- Describe the periodic table layout.
- Describe the electron capture mechanism.
Waves and Particles
- Understand the wave-particle duality of light and fundamental particles.
Relativity and Time Dilation
- Understand the formulation of the Theory of Special Relativity.
- Become familiar with the topic of time dilation, and be able to calculate observed time in different frames of reference.
- Understand length contraction and mass increase from an example of muon creation.
- Identify the energy invariance relationship.
- Determine which radiation types are affected by relativity effects in typical nuclear engineering situations.
- Familiarize yourself with Cerenkov radiation.
- Understand the index of refraction and variables in the equation.
- Calculate the threshold energy for Cerenkov radiation in a medium.
Specification Area 1 – Nuclear Power
- Define subcooled, saturated, and superheated as applied to the states of water found in a nuclear power plant.
- Define quality as applied to a saturated water system.
- Describe how changes in pressure allow a BWR to produce steam in the core while a PWR doesn’t.
- Describe the parameters provided in the PE Nuclear Reference Handbook for subcooled water.
- Describe the parameters provided in the PE Nuclear Reference Handbook for saturated water and steam.
- Describe the parameters provided in the PE Nuclear Reference Handbook for superheated steam.
Steam Tables Examples, Part I
- Determine the parameters provided in the PE Nuclear Reference Handbook for subcooled water.
- Determine the parameters provided in the PE Nuclear Reference Handbook for superheated steam.
- Determine the condition of steam (saturated or superheated) and use the appropriate table.
Steam Tables Examples, Part II
- Determine the quality for saturated steam-water mixtures when given a specific volume or enthalpy or entropy at a given condition.
- Determine any or all of the parameters provided in the PE Nuclear Reference Handbook for saturated steam-water mixtures when given a quality at a given condition.
Steam Tables Examples, Part III
- Determine the parameters provided in the PE Nuclear Reference Handbook for saturated steam-water mixtures when given a quality and temperature.
- Calculate parameters using either English units or SI units commonly known as metric units.
Steam Tables Examples, Part IV
- Using the steam tables, calculate the work done in a turbine based on given inlet and outlet conditions.
- Using the turbine efficiency, calculate the actual work and the actual turbine outlet conditions.
Fluid Flow and Energy Balance
- Describe the relationship between Bernoulli’s equation and the First Law of Thermodynamics.
- Discuss each of the terms in the general energy balance equation.
- Given the initial and final conditions of the system, calculate the unknown fluid properties using the simplified Bernoulli equation.
- Define the term head with respect to its use in fluid flow.
- Given a set of system conditions, calculate the pump head or friction head using the modified Bernoulli equation.
Laminar and Turbulent Flow
- Describe the characteristics and flow velocity profiles of laminar flow and turbulent flow.
- Define viscosity and how it varies with temperature.
- Describe the relationship between the Reynolds number and the degree of turbulence of the flow.
- Define the four different friction factors and how they are related.
- Discuss the relationship between friction factor and Reynolds number and how this is demonstrated on a Moody chart.
Determination of Friction Factor
- Determine the value of the friction factor using the Moody Chart.
- Describe how the roughness is related to pipe material.
- Discuss how relative roughness is calculated and how it affects the friction factor.
Calculation of Friction Head
- Determine the value of the friction head for a given set of fluid flow conditions.
- Define fully developed turbulent flow and how this affects the friction factor.
- Discuss how the friction head is related to change in velocity and to change in Reynolds number for fully developed turbulent flow.
- Define the suction and discharge sides of a pump and where the reference line for elevation is.
- Calculate the hydraulic horsepower of a pump in terms of gpm and psi.
- Calculate the brake horsepower of a pump given the pump efficiency and the head and pressure change in either SI or English units.
Pump Head and Calculations
- Define the four different heads associated with a pumping system.
- Identify the heads associated with static head and describe why they are “static.”
- Define the total developed head and describe how it is used to create a manufacturer’s pump curve.
Pumps: Cavitation and NPSH
- Define cavitation and how it affects pump operation.
- State the equation for calculating NPSHa and define each of the terms.
- State the requirement for NPSHa relative to NPSHr for proper pump operation.
- Discuss how the location of the fluid source with respect to pump centerline affects NPSHa.
Pumps: Examples of NPSH Calculations
- Calculate the NPSHa for a given pump layout.
- Calculate NPSHr for a given pump suction head and system layout.
- Determine minimum fluid level to avoid cavitation.
- List the five parameters used to specify a pump.
- Describe how pump curves are used to indicate variation of head, efficiency, and bhp with flow rate.
- Discuss how impeller size affects head.
- Describe how to create a system curve that gives the system head versus system flow rate.
- Calculate the system dynamic head for a flow rate given the system dynamic head at another flow rate.
- Identify the operating point from a given pump curve and system curve.
- Discuss how valve operation affects flow rate and pump operating point.
Pump Calculations: Examples, Part I
- Identify characteristics of pump curves.
- Calculate pump discharge conditions.
- Describe the effect of changes in valve conditions and/or pipe diameters on the system curve.
Pump Calculations: Examples, Part II
For a given system layout:
- Calculate head for suction side.
- Calculate head for discharge side.
- Calculate static heads and total developed head (TDH).
- Calculate NPSHa for a given system.
- Calculate hydraulic and brake horsepower.
Probabilistic Risk Assessment
Probabilistic Risk Assessment: Introduction
- Define risk assessment.
- Define risk in terms of frequency and consequences.
- Identify the three levels of PRA.
- List three elements of a PRA.
Basic Concepts of Probability
- Define what is meant by the probability of an event, the complement of an event, the union of two events, and the intersection of two events.
- Define mutually independent events and mutually exclusive events.
- Define conditional probability for two events.
- Define the rules of addition of probabilities for mutually exclusive and for non-mutually exclusive events.
- Define the rules of multiplication of probabilities for mutually exclusive events, independent events, and dependent events.
- Define the rule of subtraction for probabilities.
- Describe the difference between combinations of items and permutations of subsets of those items.
- Calculate numbers of combinations or permutations in a given set of items.
- Identify how the binomial distribution is used in PRA analyses and use the equation to calculate probabilities.
- Identify how the Poisson/exponential distribution is used in PRA analyses and use the equation to calculate system reliability.
Event and Fault Trees
- Describe the difference between an event tree and a fault tree.
- Discuss the relationship between the initiating event (IE) and the consequences.
- Discuss the relationship between failure probabilities and the reliability of system equipment.
Fault Tree Example
- Determine a fault tree for an upset in a given operation.
- Using Boolean operations, determine the probabilities for combinations of events.
- Calculate the frequency of an upset event.
PRA Example Problems
- Use the binomial distribution to calculate probability of r failures in N trials.
- Use concepts of Boolean algebra to calculate the probability of independent failures.
- Calculate the probability of a sequence of events using conditional probability.
- Calculate the probability of failure to start for systems with common-cause failures.
- Define the mean time to failure (MTTF) and how it relates to the reliability of a system.
- Calculate the probability of failure to run for different time periods given the MTTF.
Heat Exchangers: Introduction
- Describe how heat exchangers use fluid flow to exchange energy.
- Identify where convective heat flow and where conductive heat flow is used in a heat exchanger.
- Describe the arrangement that creates a double-pipe heat exchanger.
- Define co-current and counter-current flow in a double-pipe heat exchanger.
Overall Heat Transfer Coefficient
- State the equation for overall heat transfer rate in a heat exchanger and identify the factors.
- State the equation for fluid content and show how it is related to overall heat transfer rate.
- Define the overall heat transfer coefficient and describe how it is calculated using the sum of thermal resistances.
- Define fouling and how it affects the overall heat transfer coefficient and overall heat transfer rate.
- Define “clean” and “dirty” in relation to heat transfer rates in a heat exchanger.
- Provide some typical values for fouling resistances.
Log Mean Temperature Difference
- Define LMTD and describe its relationship to heat exchanger efficiency.
- Calculate LMTD for a counter-current-flow heat exchanger.
- Calculate LMTD for a co-current-flow heat exchanger.
Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchangers
- Describe various components of a shell-and-tube heat exchanger.
- Define the characteristics of a multipass shell-and-tube heat exchanger.
- Identify some advantages and disadvantages of a multipass heat exchanger.
- Discuss the importance of shell-side baffles.
Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchanger Parameters
- Describe the various tube layouts commonly used in a shell-and-tube heat exchanger.
- Define tube layout, tube pitch, tube counts, and shell diameter as applied to a shell-and-tube heat exchanger.
- Define Prandtl number and Nusselt number.
- Calculate Nusselt number using either the Dittus-Boelter or Sieder-Tate empirical equations.
- Calculate a film coefficient from the Nusselt number.
Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchanger Example
- Calculate heat transfer rate (HX duty).
- Calculate inlet or outlet temperature of a fluid.
- Calculate LMTD.
- Calculate velocity; Reynolds number; Prandtl number; Nusselt number; and film coefficient, h, for fluid in the tubes.
- Calculate outside surface area, Ao, and the overall heat transfer coefficient, Uo, for a shell-and-tube heat exchanger.
Shell-and-Tube Heat Exchanger Example Problems
- Evaluate typical parameters applicable to heat exchangers and heat transfer.
Specification Area 4 – Nuclear Criticality/Kinetics/Neutronics
- Describe the production of prompt and delayed neutrons through fission.
- Describe the effect of delayed neutrons on the time behavior of a fissile system.
- Define βeff and what causes it to change in different systems containing the same fissile nuclides.
Reactivity and Period
- Describe reactivity and the various ways it can be expressed.
- Define the reactor period and how it relates to reactor power.
- Define doubling time, halving time, and reactor startup rate and the relationships between these and the reactor period.
Point Kinetics and Prompt Behavior
- Describe the impact of effective delayed neutrons on the time behavior of a system.
- State the point kinetics equations and discuss the solution for one effective delayed neutron group.
- Discuss the concept of prompt jump and prompt drop as related to positive and negative changes in system reactivity.
- Describe the significance of the longest-lived delayed neutron group in system behavior for large negative reactivity changes.
System Time Behavior
- Describe the time behavior for negative reactivity changes.
- Describe the time behavior for small positive reactivity changes.
- Describe the time behavior for large positive reactivity changes and the impact of the delayed neutron fraction.
- Define the terms delayed critical, prompt critical, and prompt supercritical.
- Describe the positive and negative feedback mechanisms that affect time behavior for large positive reactivity changes.
- Describe the effects of overmoderation and undermoderation on system time behavior.
Kinetics Example Problems
- Calculate the period, doubling/halving time, and/or SUR for a given reactivity change.
- Calculate reactor conditions after a reactivity change.
Fission Product Poisoning
- Describe how xenon poisoning affects reactor shutdown and startup.
- Identify the typical flux value above which xenon poisoning is important in reactor startup.
- Describe how samarium poisoning affects reactor operation, shutdown, and startup.
- Describe the effects of fission products on absorption during reactor operation.
- Discuss the impact of fission product poisoning on thermal and fast reactors.
Reactivity Coefficients and Transients
- Describe why reactors are designed with negative moderator temperature coefficients.
- Identify the two isotopes that dominate the Doppler effect in thermal reactors and describe how the effect depends on temperature.
- Describe how xenon oscillations occur and their effect on reactor control.
- Define ATWS and how consideration of such transients influences the design of reactors.
Neutronics and Criticality
- Describe the four ways neutrons can interact in a fissile system.
- Define critical, supercritical, and subcritical systems.
- Define the infinite multiplication factor and the effective multiplication factor.
- Define a reflector and provide examples.
- Describe the neutron life cycle.
One-Group Diffusion theory
- State the one-group diffusion equation and describe the interaction characterized by each of the terms.
- Define the material buckling and geometric buckling and their relationship in critical, supercritical, and subcritical systems.
- State the equation for the one-group infinite multiplication factor.
- State the equation for the material buckling in a fast system.
Modified One-Group Diffusion Theory
- Define the thermalization correction factors for fast leakage, fast fission, and resonance escape.
- State the four- and six-factor formulas and describe the physical process represented by each term.
- State the modified one-group diffusion equation and describe the interaction characterized by each of the terms.
- Define the nonleakage probability.
- Discuss the applicability and limitations of diffusion theory, one-group, and modified one-group.
- Identify and describe the four regions of neutron energy.
- Describe the characteristics of the fission spectrum.
- Distinguish between a hard and a soft spectrum and describe how moderators are used to create a soft (thermal) spectrum.
- Define the characteristics of a neutron moderator and give examples of typical moderating materials.
- Define a thermal neutron and discuss how it is characterized by a Maxwellian distribution.
- Describe the behavior of the neutron flux in the three main regions of a thermal reactor.
- Describe the typical neutron energy spectra in a fast reactor and in a thermal reactor.
Neutron Cross Sections
- Describe the different neutron interactions, the difference between elastic and inelastic scattering, and the difference between capture and fission events.
- Define neutron cross sections and the factors that affect the probability of neutron interactions.
- Distinguish between microscopic and macroscopic cross sections, and identify the units that apply to each.
- Describe the effects of neutron energy on the probability of the four neutron interactions.
- Discuss the cross-section behavior of a 1/v absorber as the neutron energy decreases from typical fission energies.
Neutron Cross Section Examples
- Calculate interaction rate and interaction probability.
- Calculate macroscopic cross sections for compounds.
- Define mean-free-path and state how it is calculated for a compound.
- Describe the concept of buckling conversion and its use in determining equivalent critical geometries.
- Discuss the impact of shape on the value of extrapolation distance for simple geometries.
- Identify the nine criticality parameters (MAGIC MERV).
- Describe how the criticality parameters affect neutron production, absorption, and leakage—and hence, k-effective.
- Identify those parameters that are dominant in fast systems and those that are dominant in slow (thermal) systems.
- Define fast and thermal systems and how moderators and reflectors affect the neutron energy in each of these systems.
Criticality Example Problem
- Describe the applicability of one-group and modified one-group diffusion theory to systems containing water or other moderators.
- Discuss the need to correct 2200 m/sec fission and absorption cross sections for Maxwellian distribution, non-1/v behavior, and temperature effects.
- Describe how to calculate critical slab thickness using modified one-group theory.
Nuclear Reactions and Q-values
- Describe the four parameters that must be conserved in any nuclear reaction including radioactive decay.
- Describe how to calculate the Q-value for any nuclear reaction using mass excess values.
- Discuss the impact of the sign of the Q-value on the probability of a radioactive decay equation.
- Define high-Z materials as fissionable, fissile, threshold fissionable, or fertile.
- Describe the fission process in terms of energy generated, particles produced, and the partitioning of the energy among the products.
- Calculate the fission rate, rate of 235U consumption, and burnup.
- Discuss the yield of fission products from fission.
Fission Products and Decay Heat
- Describe the dominant decay process for fission products.
- Discuss the qualitative behavior of decay heat generation rate after reactor shutdown.
- Discuss the effect of burnup on the creation of actinide isotopes.
- Describe how the presence of actinides impacts the decay heat generation rate.
- Describe the concept of neutron multiplication as related to count rates from a detector and the effective multiplication factor of a system.
- Describe the inverse multiplication approach for determining critical conditions.
- Discuss the 75% rule and the 50% rule and their applications in approach-to-critical experiments.