Around 2pm (Prague time) today we boarded a train for Vienna, Austria. Sadly enough, our time with the Czech Technical University’s Nuclear Physics Department had come to a close. It has been a phenomenal program. We as policy students were offered an amazing opportunity to get to see the technical application of nuclear safety, security, safeguards, and reactor operation. It was an invaluable experience, one which I know will benefit my future career aspirations as well as my Instagram popularity for at least the next 3 weeks.
It was a week and a half jam-packed full of lectures, nuclear-related facility visits, and hands-on exercises. I loved it, but oh my goodness my brain was quite exhausted by the end of it. I think the rest of my classmates felt similarly since earlier today in one of our last hands-on lessons it took 4 grad students a few minutes to calculate 5% of the current power output (we ended up getting it wrong too). Even though we were mentally drained, the last day was something we had looked forward too because they let us operate the research reactor!
A common reoccurring theme of conversation among the students during the program has been the importance of a technical understanding from those politicians/policy makers that deal with nuclear issues. Now this involves everything between spent fuel management, disarmament policy, and terrorist threat risk analysis for WMD. It would be exceedingly difficult to successfully negotiate the reduced breakout time for an Iranian nuclear weapons program without an understanding of the nuclear fuel cycle. And understanding the potential risk of a non-state actor getting ahold of spent fuel would be extremely difficult without the basic understanding of the kinds of casks and security procedures used to store the fuel. Yes, policy people, some science could do you some good (your brain might feel like it will explode a few times though).
I will be continuing to post about the Prague program, facts and stories that I have not told yet. In addition to that, I will be starting my internship at the IAEA this Wednesday so this nonproliferation student will continue to update you with my nerdly musings.
Here are some more photos from the program: