Today was like Disney Land for nonproliferation nerds… well maybe for reactor nerds… well maybe for reactor nerds who have never been to Disney Land.
We went to visit the Temelin reactor in the mid-southern region of the Czech Republic. The Temelin reactor facility has two VVER 1000 reactors which roughly have 1000 MWe output each. Just seeing the large cooling towers from a distance was reason enough to start getting giddy.
The reactor campus was HUGE. We walked around to a few of the buildings that were not super secret and got a pretty good view of most of the main buildings. There were two main reactor halls (for the two different reactors). Each building had a section that housed the actual reactor pressure vessel and was connected to the turbine section that was fed steam produced by the reactor’s heat generation. We were able to walk across an elevated walkway to the turbine section and actually go inside. We could see where the intake pipes fed the steam generated by the reactor into the turbine and then we walked all the way around it to where it is finally cooled by the water that goes through the cooling towers. And my goodness it was loud, we had to put earplugs in but still, it was a very noisy contraption. And yes, we were not allowed cameras at this point so I drew a little something for you.
There was one guy that worked at the reactor and was taking pictures for us, and hopefully we will have them by the end of the trip, but until then my doodles will have to suffice.
Nuclear energy has about a 56% public approval rating in the Czech Republic currently. There is always an impact of environmental and health fears associated with nuclear materials, but a strong driving force for nuclear power revolves around the Czech desire for energy dependency. Oil and gas based energy production would rely heavily on Russian imports and that is not something that many of the Czech people want to be locked into.
The last part of the tour was spent in a mock-up of the control room that is used to train new employees and conduct licensing examinations. Since it was not the real thing, we were allowed to take pictures… AND PRESS BUTTONS!
Overall it was a pretty awesome day, I had studied reactor design before and geolocated different reactor plants, but this was the first time I was able to see one in person.