The Czech Republic’s biggest research reactor gets a woman’s touch.

If you had been at the Nuclear Research Institute (NRI) at Rez, close to Prague, Czech Republic, on 8 January this year you would not have noticed anything special about the day – except perhaps for the heavy snow that had hit Rez a few days earlier and was continuously covering in the whole area in a thick white coat. For most of the NRI personnel it was just an average Friday, but not for the staff operating the LVR-15 research reactor. After fifty years of full-power operation a woman was sitting behind the reactor’s control desk for the first time. On 24 November 2009, Marija Miletić passed the theoretical exams for reactor operators set by the Czech State Examination Committee and received approval to start an eight-weeks practical training course. As a part of her practical training with the LVR-15 research reactor, Marija started with control rod removal at 1:45 PM. The reactor then reached criticality at 2:06 PM and full power of 9.5 MW was achieved at 2:19 PM. Her actions were supervised by the Chief of Reactor Operation, Vladimír Brož, by the Shift Supervisor, Jaroslav Tichý, and by Senior Operator, Petr Šikner.

In their professional opinion the supervisory team could not remember the LVR-15 reactor ever having experienced such a calm or smooth start-up. This important research facility undoubtedly appreciated Marija’s studied and expert touch. Marija's education had given her the best possible qualifications for the correct and competent operation of a nuclear reactor. However, at the moment they only apply to research reactors. In June 2009, she graduated in “Theory and Technology of Nuclear Reactors in the field of Nuclear Engineering” from the Department of Nuclear Reactors, Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering, of the Czech Technical University, in Prague. In October 2009, she began her PhD studies in this department, focusing on nuclear energy development in Serbia and on a possible cooperation with the Czech Republic in the nuclear industry sector.

Marija Miletić

She has also acquired broad experience with LVR-15 research reactors’ experimental devices, where she became one of the first female reactor loops operator in last decade. She was later appointed the first woman candidate to operate a reactor. Although Marija has become the first woman nuclear reactor operator in the Czech Republic, she was not the first woman in the country to sit behind a control desk at a commercial nuclear facility. That distinction goes to two female operators at the Dukovany and Temelin NPPs. However, of late mostly men have been operating the country’s six VVER reactors (two at Temelin and four at Dukovany). 

But Marija is not just the first female LVR-15 operator ever - as a Serb she has also proved that the Czech nuclear community is open and willing to support all talented and clever young people, regardless of their nationality. We can only hope that more successful young professionals like Marija will come and join the Czech nuclear industry.

Ondrej Zlamal
Young Generation of Czech Nuclear Society

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