Mika Mercado, NPTS ’20


2019 Practicum Cohort at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria.

I’m originally from the Central Valley in California, also known as agricultural capital of the US. Growing up, I never thought I would one, be at an institution like MIIS, and two, pursuing a field such as nonproliferation, which gave me the opportunity to go to Prague and gain more insight on nuclear reactors and how they function. Coming from an agricultural community, where hands-on experience is important, the Nuclear Reactor Research Practicum, was the opportunity of a lifetime. It isn’t everyday where you study a subject-matter such as nonproliferation and can go directly into a reactor to learn about fuel cycles, waste management, radiation and more.

This experience allowed me to further dive into what I learned in my introductory courses, from my first semester. This experience also helped me realize my interest in safeguards, especially in today’s climate. For anyone contemplating applying to MIIS or this program, do it! This is an investment that doesn’t come around every day. Partaking in this practicum, helped me further expand on the knowledge I gained from my first semester.

The practicum also helped shine light on my strong interests regarding safeguards and their importance. One of my favorite things from the practicum was being able to learn in a reactor. We were able to learn about reactor safety, nuclear security and safeguards, and more. We also had the opportunity to run some experiments and a hands-on reactor simulation!

Apart from gaining all this experience, coming from a policy perspective, if we had any questions, the CTU staff was more than great at explaining the what, how and why. The practicum also gave us the opportunity to tour nuclear reactor facilities such as the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant, Skoda Nuclear Machinery Plant, and engage with policy-makers at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. Apart from the technical experiences and visits, we were also able to learn about the cultural component for when it comes to nuclear reactors, and how the opinion of reactors can be completely different with their neighboring countries, affecting potential policy decisions.

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