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Nuclear Department Students Train at Czech Technical University

Students from Nuclear Advanced Course 52 recently attended live reactor training at the VR-1 reactor at the Department of Nuclear Reactors, Czech Technical University in Prague.

The purpose of this visit is two-fold: firstly to build upon and consolidate the advanced reactor physics knowledge gained in lectures with a range reactor physics experiments, and secondly, to provide a unique opportunity for civilian students (and Nuclear Department staff) to operate a nuclear reactor under the supervision of staff from the Czech Technical University.  While the VR-1 reactor is for educational and research purposes, it has significant similarities, in terms of reactor physics, to the Pressurised Water Reactors of the type used in Her Majesty’s Submarines.   

The core of the VR-1 can be readily reconfigured to the educational needs of the users, providing different flux profiles for a variety of experiments which the students carry out themselves, for which no equivalent facility exists within the UK. The benefit of this type of ‘hands-on’ approach is immediately apparent, promoting a far greater breadth and depth of understanding of the core science and engineering behind light-water moderated reactors. This is crucial in order to maintain the competence of the NSQEP personnel who deal with such a highly complex and challenging technology on a daily basis.

VR-1 is a pool type, zero power reactor designed to allow experiments for teaching (and research) purposes to be carried out. These range from neutron flux mapping of the core, neutron detection methods and approach to criticality. Reactivity measurements designed to determine control rod safety margins were also covered in depth, adding a tangible physics aspect that is sometimes lost in the mathematics that students have to plough through while on the course. Being a zero power reactor also allows a much closer interaction and appreciation of a live reactor core; standing on a power reactor would not be conducive to good health, especially if an academic, such as the Team Leader Dr Kirk Atkinson, is operating it!

While the faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering sits on the bank of the Vltava River in the shadow of Prague Castle, the reactor itself is located in a drab communist-era building in a suburb of the city. There is an advantage to this location however; the excellent Czech beer is significantly below ‘tourist’ prices.

The Nuclear Department are very grateful to the UK Defence attaché in Prague, Colonel Jamie Athill and his team, for their continuing support to this endeavour.