Instructor Information

Ralph Lightner

Home Phone: 410-461-9357
Work Phone: 410-461-9357

Dr. Lightner was formerly an Office Director within the Department of Energy's Environmental Management program. He has extensive experience in the development of nuclear and fossil energy systems as well as in energy related environmental restoration and waste management.

Course Information

Course Description

This course covers fundamental aspects of radioactive substances in the environment; remediation processes for these substances; and their eventual storage, processing, and disposal. It provides a basic understanding of radioactivity and its effect on humans and their environment, as well as the techniques for their remediation and disposal. Topics include radioactivity, the nucleoids, interaction of radiation with matter, shielding, dosimetry, biological effects, protection standards, sources of environmental radiation, risk evaluation, fate and transport analysis, cleanup standards, legal requirements, cleanup technologies, waste disposal, and case studies.

Course Goal

Provide a technical understanding of the fundamental aspects of radioactive substances in the environment, remediation processes for these substances, and their eventual storage, processing, and disposal.

Course Objectives

  • Attain a fundamental understanding of radioactivity and its effect on humans and the environment.
  • Display an informed awareness of the issues related to radioactive waste.
  • Demonstrate a professional familiarity with techniques for remediation and disposal of radioacive wastes.
  • Understand the national approach to the regulation of nuclear wastes.

When This Course is Typically Offered

The next offering of this course will be on-line in the fall of 2016.


  • radioactive decay
  • interaction of radiation with matter
  • the nuclides
  • accute, delayed, and small dose effects
  • naturally occuring radioactive materials
  • man-made and man-induced sources of radiation
  • nuclear weapons, dirty bombs and fallout
  • contamination from nuclear weapons production
  • cleanup methods and standards
  • nuclear power wastes and emissions
  • technical and legal requirements of waste disposal
  • prescriptive and risk-based cleanups
  • nuclear waste policies
  • nuclear accidents

Student Assessment Criteria

Individual assignments and quizzes 30%
Issue paper and presentation 20%
Small Group activities 15%
Large Group activity 10%
Discussion participation 10%
Final examination 15%

Individual assignments require the performance of scoping calculations to solve quantitative problems or performance of well-focused research. Issue paper requires development of a cuurent issue related to radioactive material in the environment. A written paper is submitted and an oral presentation is made to the class. Small Group activities include cooperative dicussions and working of related problems. Discussions include issues raised in the course material as well as from student submitted press "clips" of contemporary issues. A Large Group activity will evaluate current events or issues and will culminate with a submittal for class discussion.

Computer and Technical Requirements

Working knowledge of computer spread sheet, presentation and browser programs is assumed. Possession of a working USB headset is required for participation in weekly Office Hours. Access to a computer that can execute a Windows-based program is needed for a few assignments.

Participation Expectations

Modules consist of presentations by the instructor, reading assignments, class discussions, group problem solving and some contemporary audio/visual materials. Students are expected to activly participate each week, to complete weekly assignments, to collaborate in group activities, to submit a written issue paper, and to make an on-line presentation on their selected issue topic.


Textbook information for this course is available online through the MBS Direct Virtual Bookstore.

Course Notes

There are notes for this course.

Final Words from the Instructor

The presence of radioactive materials in the environment presents a unique set of challanges to the environmental professional. Control of wastes becomes increasingly vital as more extensive use is made of nuclear medicine and nuclear power. The malevolent uses of the substances in nuclear bombs and dirty bombs and the potential for accidents must be understood to permit effective protection of humans and the environment in the event of radioactive releases.

(Last Modified: 03/09/2016 03:17:35 PM)