Irina Yarovaya, a dual degree MIIS-MGIMO student was a part of the Nuclear Research Reactor Practicum, a two-week program run by the Middlebury Institute and the Czech Technical University (CTU) in Prague. Through this practicum Irina enhanced her knowledge of how a nuclear reactor works, while furthering her knowledge about nuclear safeguards. This opportunity allowed her the chance to apply the knowledge she learned in class to the real world.
With no technical background or knowledge of nonproliferation other than a few courses at Middlebury Institute, Irina gained practical experience and knowledge of the nonproliferation field as she operated a nuclear reactor. For the first week of the practicum, experts in the field taught Irina and her classmates the basics of nuclear power, nuclear reactors and how a reactor is controlled. Yarovaya said, “the most exciting part of the practicum consists of hands-on experiments…[with] lab work involving neutron detection and radiation monitoring.” Additionally, each student was able to operate a nuclear reactor and do measurements for fuel rods within the reactor. Irina also learned more about the nuclear fuel cycle and radioactive waste management.
Her time in Prague and Vienna also included site visits to some of most renown places in the field of nuclear proliferation. While in Prague, she and the other participants were able to visit the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant, Skoda’s Nuclear Machinery Manufacturing Facility, National Radiation Protection Institute, and the experimental “Golem” fusion reactor at the Czech University. Each of these visits included presentations and lectures by experts in the field of nonproliferation. These presentations gave Irina an in-depth look at exactly how nuclear weapons and reactors work.
At SKODA, Irina learned about the specific equipment in a nuclear reactor and the intricacies which go in to making it. Following their site visit to Skoda, Irina visited the National Radiation Protection Institute where she put her new found knowledge to good use operating an active nuclear reactor. Few people outside of a nuclear facility can say they have operated an active nuclear reactor and Irina can say she not only operated it, but practiced simulations in the operation room of the reactor.
Moving on from Prague, Irina and her classmates headed to Vienna, Austria where they toured the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). Irina had the opportunity to speak with IAEA officials about the current climate around nuclear proliferation. The IAEA is one of the leading agencies dealing with the issue of nuclear proliferation.