| by Nadia Pshonyak

In the News, News Stories

Students in front of a nuclear reactor
Students visited nuclear reactors during a recent experiential learning trip to Prague and Vienna.

It’s not every day you get to hang out at a nuclear reactor.

But that was part of the hands-on learning that ten students from the Institute and Middlebury College got to do on a recent experiential learning trip to the Czech Republic and Austria.

“The trip to Vienna and Prague was the most memorable trip that I’ve had in a very long time,” said Izabella Smith, who is completing her M.A. in international trade. “I enjoyed every second of the program as well as the people…I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do something like operating a nuclear reactor again so I will remember it forever.”

The students attended lectures at the Department of Nuclear Reactors at Czech Technical University (CTU) and conducted experiments on the research reactor. They also met with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

Greyton Kegler
Greyton Kegler (NPTS) conducting research on a nuclear reactor

The Nuclear Research Reactor Practicum global course started out in Prague, Czechia and gave students the opportunity to learn more about the issues having to do with nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism and to observe how safeguards and nuclear security measures are implemented in practice. Students attended lectures and workshops at Czech Technical University and came away with a basic understanding of reactor operation and control for research and power reactors, a basic understanding of the nuclear fuel cycle, and a basic understanding of radioactive decay, radiation detection, neutron activation analysis, and safe preparation of radionuclides in a research reactor. Along with this they got to operate a research reactor and see in practice how such safeguards and security measures work. 

In addition to visits to the VR-1 Research Reactor, students also visited the Golem Fusion Reactor, the National Radiation Protection Institute, and the Skoda Nuclear Machinery plant. However, it wasn’t all about nuclear science on this trip to Prague. The participants were also able to explore the city and take in the many sights and sounds of this historic UNESCO World Heritage Site.

My favorite part was operating the research reactor…and I enjoyed every second of the program. Learning about nuclear engineering isn’t something that I had on my radar as an ITED student but I [am] most grateful to have been given this opportunity.
— Izabella Smith

After learning all about nuclear reactors in Prague, students travelled to Vienna to visit the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to learn more about the agency’s mission and main areas of work, which include: Safety and Security, Science and Technology, and Safeguards and Verification, all within the United Nations framework and guided by the Member states. According to the IAEA website: “The IAEA is the world’s centre for cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies”. In Vienna, they also visited the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to learn more about its work and mission which is to put a ban to all nuclear explosions “by everyone, everywhere: on the Earth’s surface, in the atmosphere, underwater and underground”, according to their website. 

Visiting these two important organizations and seeing firsthand how nuclear reactors work are just some of the ways that this global course and the global courses at MIIS, in general, enable students to gain real-world, practical knowledge about the subjects that they are studying and the careers that they are preparing for. 

For More Information

The Experiential Learning Team at MIIS