China’s nuclear energy generation capacity has expanded in recent years as part of the strategy to modernise and decarbonise their energy infrastructure. China has an ambitious strategy of nuclear plant construction (14 in operation and 25 more under construction), and is therefore uniquely placed to provide an insight into the construction process and reactor safety.  As a result, nuclear power featured throughout the 'Xiamen Clean Energy Science and Technology Summer School' which was attended by five students from the School of Metallurgy and Materials.


The annual three-week summer school, based in China, and sponsored by EDF and the School of Metallurgy and Materials, is an important opportunity to strengthen ties and share global expertise. Five of our Nuclear Engineering students; Martin Donohue, Jonny Young, Tom Mitchell, Nadeem Khodabukus and Alex Turner, were joined by students from the Universities of Xiamen, Michigan and Leeds to explore the field of Clean Energy from an interdisciplinary and international perspective.

The summer school included a range of lectures, including one from Birmingham's Dr Mark Read, covering a wide array of current and developing alternative energy generation technologies. 

The students visited two of China’s nuclear facilities. Dayabay, near Hong Kong, which has been operating reactors based on a French design since the mid-1990s; and Fuqing, a site still under construction and location of the new Chinese designed Hualong One reactors.

Jonny with Professor Jun Yao in front of the construction site of Fuqing Nuclear Power Plant


UK-China relations in the nuclear industry are robust with the Chinese taking a stake in an £18bn nuclear power station at Hinkley, which will meet 7% of Britain's electricity needs. There are also plans for two more UK-China collaborations to develop nuclear power stations at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex.

The programme also provided a valuable opportunity for our students to experience China, learn about its rich culture and history, and form friendships and professional networks with international students. There was also time to take in Hong Kong's annual Dragon Boat Festival and explore the surrounding area.

Martin said:
'While participating in the summer school we lived in student accommodation on campus alongside those from Leeds and Michigan. As a result, the experience not only provided an opportunity to create further links between the Universities of Xiamen and Birmingham, but to forge an international network of academic colleagues and friends. Being part of the Xiamen Clean Energy Summer School has, in retrospect, been a truly unique and valuable undertaking that will have a lasting impact in the future.'

Nadeem said:
'Although the main focus of the trip was clean energy and nuclear power in particular, we had time to soak up the culture. As well as the guest lectures, we also attended Chinese culture lectures from a retired economics lecturer. These lectures gave us an insight into the intricacies of Chinese etiquette, as well as basic introduction to calligraphy and Chinese phonetics. We had a chance to visit Hong Kong for a weekend; luckily, this was the weekend of the Dragon Boat Festival, where competitors from across the world race dragon boats. Over the course of three weeks I have learned a lot about Chinese culture and my proficiency with chopsticks increased tenfold.'

Alex said:
'The China summer school has been an invaluable and unforgettable summer which will support my hopes of becoming a future key player in the nuclear science industry and help be a part of the clean energy solution, whether that be in my academic or industrial career.'