I'm trying to find a good book to self-study nuclear reactor physics and design. I have a background in theoretical physics and mathematics (both MSc) but close to no knowledge about engineering. I'm looking for a book which covers the basic physical principles underlying a nuclear reactor, but also how such reactors work and how they are designed.

A few options I found:

  • Fundamentals of Nuclear Science and Engineering by Shultis and Faw, although this doesn't seem to elaborate too much on reactor design.
  • Nuclear Energy: An Introduction to the Concepts, Systems, and Applications of Nuclear Processes by Holbert and Murray, here the chapters look interesting but are very short.
  • Nuclear Reactor Analysis by Duderstadt and Hamilton. This looks very interesting but was published in 1976 - I imagine it's pretty outdated.

Any recommendations (about these books or other ones) would be welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ I worked in nuclear power but I don't know of a really good textbook; the last one in your list sounds promising though. 1976 is pretty up-to-date for pressurized water reactor design; all extant civilian reactors were designed before that. The only innovations to be put into practice since then were by the US Navy and don't have published textbooks. Basically look for something that covers reactivity control, reactor core design, the reactor vessel, reactor coolant pumps, pressurizer vessels, and steam generators. I was an electrical engineer though; a nuclear engineering major may have ideas $\endgroup$
    – Luke
    Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 2:45

1 Answer 1


Here are some additional references; these are old but are still applicable to currently operating reactors. For the neutron physics details of nuclear reactors see: Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory by Lamarsh, and Nuclear Reactor Engineering by Glasstone and Sesonske. A very old but very good textbook on reactor physics is The Elements of Nuclear Reactor Theory by Glasstone and Edlund; it is elegant in its presentation and clarity and is available from Amazon. I can also provide references for advanced textbooks on reactor physics if you wish.

For discussions of nuclear power plant engineering, design, and operating characteristics beyond the reactor physics aspects see: Introduction to Nuclear Engineering by Lamarsh, Nuclear Energy Conversion by El-Wakil and Nuclear Engineering Theory and Technology of Commercial Nuclear Power by Knief. Knief's book also addresses other aspects in addition to reactors such as reprocessing. For a discussion of heat transport in reactors see Nuclear Heat Transport by El-Wakil.

The US NRC website has much information on-line for light water reactors. For reactor design details, search for "systems manuals" on that site and you will find detailed discussions for PWR and BWR designs, broken up into separate sections as pdf files you can download.

I have a basement full of reactor information, some of very useful but out of print and unavailable on-line, such as WASH 1250 The safety of Nuclear Power Reactors and Related Facilities. If you have any specific questions I can provide answers/ additional references.

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    $\begingroup$ This is far short of the level detailed expected from answers to resource-recommendation threads; as the banner above the question indicates, answers that don't meet that bar are routinely removed. Please read the policy linked in the banner, and browse existing threads with the resource-recommendations tag, to get a feeling for the requirements. I imagine you know these books quite well and should be able to write very useful commentary! $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 11, 2020 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ I second your comment about The Elements of Nuclear Reactor Theory by Glasstone and Edlund (1952). This is a very well written book, and it amazes me that it contains most of the undergraduate reactor theory that we still use today. You can sometimes find copies very cheap on Ebay or other sites. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 12:45

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