As predicted after the first day, yesterday and today have been jam-packed with nuclear facts, reactors, and me making a fool of myself.
Yesterday we got to witness an emergency response drill at the university research reactor. They were simulating it just for us, so the staff took the time to pause between each step and explain what they were doing. Not to mention they also conducted the drill in English as opposed to Czech. But my favorite part was most certainly when Anthony and I got to don full body decontamination suits and help with the simulation. We assisted with the radiation level evaluation and site decontamination. The reality was a little less grand than I am making it sound, we mostly just put cones up around a spilled “irradiated” sample and wiped up the floor with paper towel, but it was fun nonetheless.
Today was quite a busy day. We took the train to a nuclear research institute about 20 minutes outside of the city to tour a LVR-15 (10 MWth) research reactor and a LR-0 (zero power) research reactor. They didn’t let cameras in, just like the last one, but this time I doodled for you so you could see what we got to tour. I think it came out with an almost perfect likeness.
The top drawing is the control panel in the operations room. For equipment with the ability to start, manipulate, and stop a nuclear reaction… I will admit I was a little taken aback at the low-tech vibe. Lots of dials and blinking lights (which obviously I had a Will Ferrel “Elf”-style desire to press all of them). I guess there is a part of me that would feel weird about the idea that you could press a button that “starts” the reactor, but not actually see or hear anything. It would be anti-climactic.
When we got to go on top of the LVR-15 (as seen in the second picture), we got to see something VERY cool. The reactor had been on for a couple days prior and was now off, so when we looked down into the core we got to witness cherenkov radiation. Cherenkov radiation is electromagnetic radiation that takes on a blue glow when underwater in nuclear reactors. It was both eery and pretty.
It also was really cold today, Monterey has lulled us into a false sense of security in regards to our winter preparedness. (we had to huddle for warmth)