Publication date: 
On Wednesday March 23, 2022, the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering of the CTU in Prague (FNSPE) announced that it has received a permit from the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SÚJB) for the construction of the VR-2 nuclear reactor. It will be located in the same reactor hall where the faculty has been operating the VR-1 Vrabec reactor since 1990. The number of operating nuclear reactors in the Czech Republic will thus round up to ten in the future (not counting the Golem fusion reactor). In addition to the VR-1 and VR-2 reactors, there are also two research reactors of the Research Centre in Řež and six nuclear reactors operated by ČEZ in two nuclear power plants.

"Our nuclear reactors are among the absolutely unique school facilities, thanks to which we can train experts for the field of nuclear research. It also helps us attract the interest of international students. We are one of the few universities in the world that operates both the fission nuclear reactor VR-1 Vrabec and the fusion nuclear reactor – the Golem tokamak. And now we are approaching the moment when we will have two fission reactors," says Assoc. Vojtěch Petráček, Rector of the CTU in Prague and adds: "The Czech Republic has always been one of the leading countries in the field of nuclear education and research, as evidenced by the existence of a faculty that focuses on nuclear and related sciences and operates reactors."

"We have been preparing the construction of the school's second fission reactor since 2014. With the construction permit, we are now entering the final phase and we believe that if all goes well, we will be able to start commissioning the new reactor at the end of this year," specifies Assoc. Václav Čuba, dean of FNSPE.

"This project shows the ability of the faculty and the Department of Nuclear Reactors not only to design the nuclear facility, but also to manage the entire project of its preparation and construction and commissioning. This sets us apart from other faculties in the Czech Republic," explains Jan Rataj, Head of the Department of Nuclear Reactors at FNSPE. The preparation of a nuclear facility project requires knowledge from a number of different disciplines. Some of them are assisted by departments of other faculties of CTU. Cooperation with the Department of Concrete and Masonry Structures from the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Assoc. Lukáš Vráblík enabled the determination of requirements for concrete structures and their technical design. The knowledge of Prof. Pavel Kuklík and Jan Kos from the Department of Mechanics and the Department of Geotechnics of the Faculty of Civil Engineering was used in the investigation of the subsoil and subsequent analysis).

The new VR-2 reactor can be classified as a subcritical reactor, which means that there is not enough fuel to sustain a fission chain reaction. Thus, operation can only be achieved with an external neutron source. Once the source is switched off, fission stops. This allows for simpler reactor design and construction. "The new reactor is relatively small, so we can place it in the same reactor hall where we already have the school's VR-1 Sparrow reactor. We are thus using the existing infrastructure, not only the technical infrastructure, but also the downstream laboratories, classrooms and, of course, security and administrative support," adds Jan Rataj.

The steel reactor vessel in which the fission reaction will take place was manufactured by the Witkowitz Group for FNSPE. "We are very pleased to be involved in such innovative and unique products, in this case, moreover, for top-quality professional workplaces. This confirms our position as an experienced and established manufacturer of components for nuclear facilities," says Milan Mercl, Director of Vítkovice Energy Engineering of the Witkowitz Group. The faculty has had fuel for the new reactor ready in the reactor hall for four years. It arrived in Prague Troja on 7 June 2018 from Aalto University in Finland.


Schedule for the preparation of the VR-2 reactor at FNSPE

2014    project initiation

2018    fuel transport

2020    siting decision

2022    construction decision and construction

2022    commissioning

According to the latest data from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there are 439 reactors in operation worldwide, and the Czech Republic ranks 13-14th with six power reactors, along with Sweden. According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA) data from June 2021, there are a total of 223 research reactors in the world. Russia has 52, the USA 50, China 16, other countries have less than ten, the Czech Republic has three, which puts it in the top twenty countries with three or more research reactors. "Our school reactor is different from research reactors, however, because it has been designed from the beginning to be as transparent as possible and to serve the best possible educational purposes.  Among other things, it is easy to see and handle objects directly in the reactor vessel. The reactor power is so low that there is virtually no risk. Not only our students, but also workers at power plants and the crews of nuclear submarines come to our courses to see how the reactor works and to try out how it reacts to various operator interventions," adds Jan Rataj.

The Department provides teaching for its own students, as well as students from other universities, foreign students or employees of various companies and organizations from the Czech Republic and abroad. For example, regular training of firefighters takes place here. In 2020, in cooperation with the IAEA, the reactor hall was equipped with the Internet Reactor Laboratory system so that it could offer online teaching for those who cannot get to the Czech Republic. At the time of the pandemic, the system was first tested directly by FNSPE students. Today it is regularly used for teaching foreign students – for example from the USA, Great Britain, Tunisia and other countries.

Although the new reactor, like VR-1, will be used primarily for teaching, some research projects will also be carried out on it. Researchers at the VR-1 reactor focus mainly on reactor and neutron physics, nuclear safety and computational tools for nuclear reactor analysis. They also use it for non-destructive analysis of various samples - they have studied Tibetan medicine and mammoth bones, for example.

For more information about the FNSPE school reactors, study programs and scientific activities, please visit the website of the Department of Nuclear Reactors.


History of nuclear research in the Czech Republic (in the context of the main events in the world)

1942    first nuclear reactor in Chicago, USA

1945    first reactors in Canada and the Soviet Union

1954    first nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union (Obninsk)

1955    intergovernmental agreement on nuclear research between Czechoslovakia and the former Soviet Union

Establishment of the Institute of Nuclear Physics

Start of teaching at the Faculty of Technical and Nuclear Physics of Charles University (now the Faculty of Nuclear and Physical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague)

1957    establishment of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The first nuclear reactor in Czechoslovakia begins operation: the LVR-15 in Řež

1972    start of operation of the second reactor in Řež - LR-0

1972    start of construction of the Slovak nuclear power plant Jaslovské Bohunice V1 with two VVER-440 reactors

1985    commissioning of the first unit of the Dukovany NPP (the other three units were commissioned in 1986-7)

1990    start of operation of the school fission reactor VR-1 Vrabec at FNSPE

2000    commissioning of the first unit of Temelin NPP (the second unit was commissioned in 2002)

2022    start of construction of the second school nuclear reactor VR-2 at FNSPE

Contact person: 
Jan Kadeřábek