Skip to main content
To KTH's start page To KTH's start page

Soma is creating safe and functional solutions for nuclear power plants

Soma Kovács graduated from the master’s programme in Nuclear Energy Engineering in 2017. He now works at a company that is working to complete the licencing and construction of two new nuclear units in Hungary.

Soma Kovács
Master's programme in Nuclear Energy Engineering

Hi Soma, what are you working on at the moment?

I'm currently working at Paks II Nuclear Power Plant Ltd. It is a project company which was set up to complete the licencing and construction of the two new VVER-1200 nuclear units which are going to be built in Paks, Hungary. Inside the company, I work in the Nuclear Island Division, which is responsible for the nuclear reactor, the primary circuit and its connected safety and auxiliary systems.

What can a regular day look like at your job?

The biggest part of our work currently is finalising the so-called "basic design" of the plant, which means that we cooperate with the designer to make sure that all points of the contract are fulfilled, and the design will be safe and functional. So basically, they send us their proposal, we review it and then what we work out is any modifications that are needed. Since our scope of responsibility mostly involves process systems (i.e. pipelines, pumps, filters, valves, etc...), knowledge in hydraulic calculations, reactor physics and reactor thermal hydraulics often comes in really handy. 

Have you worked with anything else since you graduated?

No, actually this was the first place I have applied to, after I graduated 2 years ago. But I'm still enjoying it very much, so I'm not planning any changes currently.

 Why did you choose this programme at KTH?

I've done my bachelor’s studies in Energy Engineering at the Budapest University of Technology. In Hungary bachelor’s education is really strong, while master’s courses are often times just more of the same, sometimes with a little more depth. So I came together with two of my friends and we considered what options we might have abroad. We came to the conclusion that if we didn't want to pay too much for education, there are several option inside the EU which we could choose. In the end, I applied to the KTH and Chalmers nuclear engineering programmes, because I spoke with some students who had completed their Erasmus semesters there and all of them brought home really great experiences. 

Are there any insights you acquired during your studies that have been extra useful for you in your career?

Absolutely. There were many courses (some of them I didn't even like at the time) which proved useful afterwards. As I said, hydraulic calculations are a big part of my job. For my Master's thesis I also had learn some programming, which has proven super useful ever since, it can save me a lot of time with some of the more repetitive tasks :). But other than useful knowledge, I think the courses and the group assignments also taught me how to go about finding solutions to problems in general and how to work with others as a team (there wasn't too much focus on this back in Hungary), and I think the soft skills you pick up working on these group projects (sometimes all semester long!) are at least as useful as the stuff they teach you in the lectures. 

What was the best aspects of your studies at KTH?

One of them was definitely the city, it was a big plus for sure. About half of the courses had amazing teachers, who were really enthusiastic about their respective fields (this ratio was significantly worse in Hungary). I got to properly learn English and I'm not afraid to speak anymore! In Hungary it was a real struggle to get a partner you can practice speaking in English with...Also, the group projects were mostly really fun and interesting, as most times we got to make up our own ideas, what subjects we would like to investigate. Some of them turned out pretty hilarious, one time we investigated how many bananas you would need to eat in a minute to die from acute radiation sickness due to the (relatively) high amount of radioactive potassium in them. We made real measurements with samples and we got the results that you would need to eat a few tons, which would be quite a feat :)

What is your best memory from your time at the universities?

The pinnacle of the whole two years master’s programme was probably the summer course we had in rural Sweden near Oskarshamn, together with other students from the US. We would listen in on lectures about geological storage of spent nuclear fuel during the day and then during the afternoon we would make campfires, play sports, and swim in the sea; it was awesome.

What are your plans for the future?

Well, in the short term I would absolutely like to stay here, it's not every day that you get to see how a nuclear power plant is built (especially in Sweden nowadays). After the plant is commissioned and running, I'm not sure maybe I could go elsewhere and build another one. Contrary to popular belief, I really think that we need nuclear power (as well as renewables) to make our electricity production carbon-free.

What would you want to say to a student thinking of applying for this programme?

If they are really interested in the nuclear field, I'd say go for it! (And definitely take the summer course about geological storage!). There are definitely some drawbacks too, which some of my friends struggled with. The knowledge you can acquire in the programme is very specific, and it won't be nearly as useful if you change your mind and decide to work in other fields (other than the soft skills of course). Also, the nuclear industry is usually not located near the biggest cities (understandably) so unless you plan to work in research, your job will most likely land you in a smaller town. If you're fine with this though, it's one of the most interesting and challenging jobs I could imagine.