Chinese Nuclear Industry Gets Help from France

By Ren Zhihui
Ren Zhihui
Ren Zhihui
December 6, 2011 Updated: December 7, 2011

The need to quickly train Chinese nuclear engineers has resulted in an unusual scenario at a university in China: local Chinese are being taught with a curriculum designed in France, by French teachers, in French-language classes.

Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, reported on the phenomenon after travelling to the Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou in September, when the opening ceremony was held.

The Institute will enroll 100 freshmen per academic year. Courses in the Institute will be completed in six years; after six years, students will receive French nuclear engineer certificates.

According to the World Nuclear Association, China currently has 14 operating reactors but its 26 reactors now under construction constitute nearly half of all the nuclear reactors being built worldwide.

Universities in China have begun to offer courses on nuclear technology, but the lack of qualified personnel led to the establishment of the Sino-French Institute of Nuclear Engineering & Technology at Zhuhai, Guangdong.

The Institute was dragged into the media spotlight after word of its unusual teaching program got out.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reporter took a look at how the freshmen were doing in their French classes. About 20 students were repeating French words after the French teacher. One 19 year-old boy from Shenzhen said that though French is not easy, the course enables him to learn advanced technology and he will try his best.

Nuclear plants are viewed as crucial in maintaining China’s high economic growth and there are plans to construct another 60 reactors by 2020.

Addressing the demand for personnel, Chen Shaomin, a Tsinghua University professor with an understanding of nuclear technology says, “By 2020, 17,000 trained nuclear engineers will be needed.”

On the other hand, Li Xutong, a nuclear technology expert, told The Epoch Times, “The cultivation of nuclear engineers should be a continual process but due to previous industry shrinkage, departments of nuclear engineering and nuclear physics have been cancelled. Qualified nuclear engineers are hard to find. The country will have a hard time training such a large number of nuclear engineers on such short notice.”

To train nuclear engineers, the number of colleges with nuclear curriculums has expanded from six in 2000 to 44 in 2011. Given this rapid growth, Professor Chen admitted that some universities are facing problems finding expert teachers and proper equipment, which makes it hard for students to make themselves familiar with the latest technology.

Read the original Chinese article.

Ren Zhihui
Ren Zhihui