Sponsored by EDF and the School of Metallurgy and Materials, four Nuclear Engineering students visited Xiamen, China, in June to participate in the Clean Energy Science and Technology Summer School.


The Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research is forging links with the University of Xiamen in nuclear education and research and this three-week summer school programme was an important opportunity to strengthen ties and share expertise. The summer school included a range of lectures as well as visits to nuclear power plants presently under construction. The students, Thomas Davis, Christopher Jones, Matthew Lloyd and Oscar Warner, were joined by students from the Universities of Michigan and Leeds.

Dr. Mark Read from the School of Chemistry was also invited to deliver a lecture and modelling workshop as part of the programme.

The Clean Energy Science & Technology Summer School included lectures on nuclear technology and alternative energy sources from leading Chinese, Birmingham, Leeds and USA experts. The main focus was on China, their culture and their civil nuclear program.

The main academic focus of the School was nuclear power. The Chinese are currently building 32 reactors, and plan to build many more in the next few decades. We visited Dayabay Nuclear Power Plant, near Hong Kong, which had six reactors and the local-low/mid-level waste disposal facilities. The week after we visited Sanmen Nuclear Power Station, which is constructing the new AP1000 reactors - here we were allowed to go right up to the reactor containment building! The trips really showed how much engineering, complexity and safety and goes into a nuclear reactors.

On the weekdays we had lectures on nuclear engineering, fuel cycle, modelling fuels, material challenges in Gen IV, biomass, coal to Chinese culture and language. We had a lecture from Bill Gates’ science advisor for TerraPower, Professor Li Ning, and experts from the USA, Leeds and our very own expert on nuclear fuel Dr. Mark Read.

The experience was just amazing. We were housed in university student accommodation, along with other students from University of Leeds and University of Michigan, USA, all attending the same summer school in the very beautiful and picturesque campus. We spent our time in lectures, visiting the two nuclear power stations, enjoying the tropical weather, eating spectacular Chinese food, exploring Xiamen and its rich history, and visiting Shanghai for a weekend.

The summer school has only strengthened the ties between Birmingham and Xiamen universities. From visiting two nuclear power stations and a radioactive waste facility to stay in Xiamen and visit Shanghai, the three weeks spent in China have been invaluable and unforgettable.

I represented the Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research by contributing to the teaching programme of The Clean Energy Science & Technology Summer School. A comprehensive and intense schedule covering the topical and fundamental aspects of “Clean Energy” technology and application was delivered within the stunning campus of Xiamen University.

The nuclear component of the School ranged from general engineering principles and the additional requirements necessitated by nuclear plants to the atomistic modelling of nuclear fuel addressing issues concerning ageing and performance. The technical programme was augmented by seminars on nuclear safety and historical reflection of some key accidents and lessons learnt.

Classroom activities were brought to life through visits to key Chinese power plants and a waste storage facility. These tours reinforced the students’ knowledge and enabled a visual appreciation of the scale and requirements of nuclear facilities as well as an insight into what working within the industry would be like.

The student experience was also enriched through immersion in Chinese culture and cuisine with the opportunity to visit a variety of charming places, from the University campus to industrial cities.

Importantly, the summer school also served to reinforce the collaborative links between our two institutions and acted as a catalyst to explore other possible future nuclear research activities. I look forward to seeing these topical and extremely useful summer schools continuing to evolve.