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On 20 July 2023, CTU Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering hosted a delegation of MEPs headed by Alexander Vondra, Member of the European Parliament. The visitors were welcomed by the Dean of the faculty doc. Václav Čuba directly at the reactor hall in the building at V Holešovičách street .The MEPs then visited the school's VR-1 reactor and the youngest nuclear reactor in the Czech Republic, VR-2, launched on 6 June 2023.

CTU has long been the best technical university in the Czech Republic and Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering (FJFI) is a leading institution in the field of education of experts not only in nuclear and particle physics. In teaching and research, the faculty strives to set trends on a global scale, as evidenced by the recent launch of the second fission reactor VR-2 (read our article here). A delegation of MEPs also chose to visit the youngest nuclear reactor as their destination during their two-day visit to the Czech Republic.

"I am glad that the faculty has a great reputation not only at home but also abroad. Our long-term goal is to be at the top of the world and to be a leading institution in the field of nuclear education in the Czech Republic. As you can see, we are succeeding in fulfilling this goal. Most often the reactor hall is filled with students, but of course we also welcome visitors from the ranks of politicians or eminent scientists who show interest in our reactors, unique facilities in the entire Ministry of Education," adds doc. Václav Čuba, dean of FJFI.

The visit was initiated by MEP Alexandr Vondra, who is vice-chair of the informal group of MEPs supporting nuclear energy. The MEPs visited the VR-1 and VR-2 facilities at the FJFI.

During the meeting, issues around the number of male and female students in recent years, the proportion of graduates who remain in the field, and the problem of women returning to active scientific life after maternity leave were discussed. Another topic was the linking of teaching across the European Union and the creation of a new degree programme in nuclear engineering in Poland. "Our faculty will be happy to share know-how for educating new nuclear experts with Polish universities as well. We have a long-term cooperation here and we will be glad to serve as a model for other universities," added the dean of doc. Čuba.

A demonstration of nuclear fuel, including measurements of the radioactivity emanating from it, was prepared for the MEPs at VR-2. They then discussed about the direction of nuclear power and nuclear energy in Europe and the world. Different approaches to communicating with the public were mentioned, which go hand in hand with the ability to target individual problems in this field.

During their visit to the Czech Republic, the MEPs headed to the Nuclear Research Institute Řež (ÚJV Řež), FJFI ČVUT or the Temelín nuclear power plant; they were also scheduled to meet with the Governor of the South Bohemian Region Martin Kuba, Senator Tomáš Jirsa, Bohdan Zronk, Member of the Board of Directors and Director of the Nuclear Division of ČEZ, and others.

Training of experts and cooperation with foreign countries

The FJFI trains experts in a number of fields related to nuclear engineering, engineers in the field of reactor or particle physics, materials engineers, experts in the occurrence of radiation in the environment, but also engineers who will one day be involved in the safe disposal of nuclear power plants and in dealing with nuclear fuel and other waste. The quality of the students, graduates and staff is reflected in the many awards received. One of them, for example, is the European Commission Prize awarded in 2022 to Dr Martin Ševeček for innovation in nuclear safety. The award itself was accompanied by a cash prize of 50 thousand euros (approximately CZK 1 million).

In addition to teaching CTU students, the Department of Nuclear Reactors cooperates with many foreign institutions such as the UK Defence Academy, University of Manchester, University of Tennessee, STU Bratislava, TU Vienna, TU Budapest, TU Aachen, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), etc. It is also a member of the Eastern European Research Reactor Initiative (EERRI), the European Nuclear Education Network (ENEN), the Czech Nuclear Education Network (CENEN) and the Research Reactors Operating Group (RROG). It is not without interest that security studies students from California who focus on nuclear non-proliferation also come to FJFI for a week-long internship. During the internship, they are introduced to the basics of nuclear physics and the operation of a nuclear facility so that they are able to understand the issues in a broader context.

Linking with practice

In addition to excellent scientists, the faculty also produces graduates for the commercial sphere. "Every year we have a great demand for our graduates from ČEZ and other institutions connected with this sector. Unfortunately, however, we are not able to satisfy their demand sufficiently, because there are still not enough pupils and students who would choose to study at our faculty, even though they have 100% job security. Often they are put off by the difficult maths in the first year, but you want nuclear engineers to show a certain amount of resilience and perseverance before you let them run a nuclear reactor," adds Dr Jan Rataj, Head of the Department of Nuclear Reactors.

Students of the Nuclear Engineering program preparing for work in nuclear power plants can receive a scholarship for their studies offered by CEZ Group. All students without distinction can then participate in professional internships with domestic and foreign partners and thus broaden their horizons or find future employment. Every year, some of the graduates go to courses for nuclear power plant operators or the European Atomic Energy Agency.

New  technology development

In addition to teaching, scientists at FJFI are also engaged in research. The Department of Nuclear Reactors has extensive experience in projects in the field of reactor and experimental neutron physics, fuel cycle, thermomechanics and dynamics of reactors, safety and control systems and activation analysis, which are supported by the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, the Czech Technology Agency or the Czech Grant Agency.

Worth mentioning is the research on small modular reactors (SMR = small modular reactor), in the development of which the department has been involved for more than 10 years. These are not only technical and physical issues but also solutions for the complex integration of SMR reactors into the Czech power and heating industry. The faculty also organizes the Small and Modular SMRs conference every year, which brings together experts from all over the world (read more here).

FJFI sets the trend within CTU as well

The mentioned SMR technology served as a template for other CTU components as inspiration for their projects and improvement proposals, as CTU has presented many times in the past. "It pleases me to see how ideas and innovations are shared throughout CTU so that they can serve to improve our lives. I'm thinking about fields outside of nuclear reactors as well. For example, the Radiological Technician programme, which is accredited by the Ministry of Health, was the inspiration for the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering, where they opened the Radiological Assisting programme," said the Dean of the faculty, doc. Čuba. Another project going across the university is the Quantum Informatics programme, which brings together four faculties (read more here). This joint program was made possible thanks to the internationally renowned quantum technology group led by Prof. Jex, which is based at FJFI.

Department of Nuclear Reactors

The Department of Nuclear Reactors provides education in nuclear engineering. Teaching is focused on theoretical and experimental reactor physics, neutron applications, the study of the nuclear fuel cycle and the safe operation of nuclear power plants and research reactors. Attention is also paid to reactor thermomechanics and dynamics and heat sharing principles. Radiation protection and the study of the biological effects of ionising radiation are an important part of the teaching.

The scientific interests of the department include theoretical and experimental reactor physics, core thermohydraulics and thermomechanics of nuclear fuel, fuel cycle analysis or the study of new reactor systems. The research work on the reactor is limited mainly by its relatively low power, therefore it is mainly focused on the preparation and improvement of pedagogical tasks, comparison of calculations of various reactor parameters with experimental results, study of dynamic properties of multiplying systems, development of control and detection systems, calibration of detectors or neutron activation analysis.

In cooperation with the National Radiation Protection Institute, a new generation of MONTE-1 equipment was developed between 2013 and 2015 for advanced testing of detection equipment for monitoring and responders in the event of nuclear accidents and early warning sensors in a radiation field that corresponds to the real mixed radiation field of radionuclides from partially spent nuclear fuel. The facility also has potential for use in radiation protection and emergency preparedness.

Contact person: 
Šárka Salačová