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At a ceremonial meeting of the CTU Scientific Board in the Bethlehem Chapel today, one of the two Rector´s awards for outstanding PhD theses in 2017 was presented to RNDr. Ing. Petr Distler, PhD et PhD, an FNSPE researcher, for his PhD dissertation entitled Study of Extraction Systems for Lanthanoids and Minor Actinoids Partitioning. The study is a part of a European project whose aim is to close the nuclear fuel cycle. In other words, the project focuses on the reprocessing of nuclear waste from fission reactors. This procedure will facilitate nuclear waste processing and will also considerably shorten the period during which nuclear waste in a deep geological repository may be.

Peter Distler explains, “ The radiotoxicity level of spent nuclear fuel spontaneously drops to reach the level of uranium ore, the source of the fuel, within a period of 300 hundred thousand years. Despite shortening this period to about 10 thousand years, the PUREX technique, applied at present to reprocessing the fuel, is not sufficient enough yet. Our project explores the concept of Partitioning and Transmutation, through which the above period would be reduced to approximately 300 years. In other words, the issue is to utilise the waste so as to extract from it further reusable and highly radioactive components with longer half-lives or components transmutable to stable or short half-life elements.“ Thus, the volume of radioactive waste will be highly reduced and will also save natural resources. Success in science requires cooperation, Petr Distler also adds, “ We cooperate most closely with colleagues from the University of Reading and Northumbria University (both in the United Kingdom).“

Petr Distler has been concerned with this issue since his first year on the Bachelor Programme in Nuclear Chemistry. He was convinced he would study chemistry from the very moment he attended the Physics Week as a second-year student in secondary education. Physics Week, an event now known as Week of Science at FNSPE, is a week of courses for secondary school students arranged by the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering. His interest in Nuclear Chemistry and the competitions he entered (including the Chemistry Olympiad, a prestigious competition for secondary education students) consequently resulted in early engagement in student research and thus, first as a bachelor student and later as a master student, he chose the issue of reprocessing nuclear fuel to be the topic of his Bachelor Project, Master Thesis and, later, Dissertation. It won Petr various awards, e.g. first prize in the competition of the Czech Nuclear Society and Nuclear Institute Rez for the best dissertation (2017) and the award of the Preciosa Foundation for an outstanding disseration (2017). In 2018 he was honoured to receive first prize for winning the Becquerel Prize personally from Professor Jean-Pierre Sauvage, the 2016 Chemistry Nobelist. The ceremony, attended by two other Nobelists, took place at the French Embassy in Prague.

In addition to research and teaching responsibilities at the Department of Nuclear Chemistry, FNSPE, Petr also runs chemistry classes at the Altis Gymnasium , an eight-year grammar school located in Prague 10. In appreciation of his teaching qualities, he was awarded a Golden Chalk Diploma for running Phyiscal Chemistry 2 tutorials in the previous academic year. The award was based on the student evaluations of his classes. “ I have adapted the tutorials in such a way as to make the students active - instead of the tutor. Now they work in teams, one team member preparing a problem and explaining it to the other members. They have enough time to discuss the issue, and, having arrived at a solution, students address questions to the other teams to see if they understand the issue. This is all based on the team or even cooperative principle of teaching and, judging by the feedback, this way of teaching is appreciated, “ adds Petr Distler. He uses a similar approach in his classes in the grammar school. Alongside research and teaching, Petr is engaged in various activities promoting science. He also reviews research results of students taking part in the Chemistry Olympiad and supervises students in secondary school chemistry competitions.

Czech version

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