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April 4, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

City in nuclear staff shortage

SHANGHAI is struggling to find enough nuclear professionals amid growing demand for clean power and the increasing use of radioactive materials in other fields.

By 2015, the city will need to recruit 1,000 nuclear professionals a year, yet only 100 students majoring in nuclear science graduate annually, according to the Shanghai Nuclear Society, a social organization of nuclear experts.

The group reiterated the importance of nuclear power in moving the country away from relying on burning polluting coal.

Nuclear power is in the headlines at the moment as Japan struggles to stop radiation escaping from the stricken Dai-ichi plant in Fukushima, which was struck by a tsunami on March 11.

"Nuclear energy is deemed as one of the most promising and cleanest sustainable power to replace coal in the country's energy strategy," said Xu Daoli, general secretary of the organization.

China has 13 nuclear power stations in commercial operation, more than 20 under construction and work about to begin on others.

Moreover, local firms making equipment for the industry need about 200 graduates, while nuclear electricity firms require another 500.

Meanwhile, more hospitals have equipment using radioactive materials which need professionals with specialist knowledge.

However, it seems difficult for the city to find enough qualified staff.

Many Chinese university students were eager to study nuclear technology in the 1960s as the country sought to build an atomic bomb, Xu said.

The subject fell away during the "cultural revolution," but regained popularity in the early 1980s as efforts were focused on nuclear power stations, he said.

However, the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union in 1986 dented confidence in the energy form, according to Xu.

And popular Japanese TV series "Blood Doubts," about a young woman killed by exposure to radiation, made many Chinese students afraid to study nuclear technology, Xu claimed.

Many universities halted admissions or closed nuclear departments for 15 to 20 years, Xu said.

Fudan University's No. 2 Physics Department, or Atomic Energy Department, stopped enrolling undergraduates between 1997 and 2009.

Peter Shan, a Fudan Physics Department graduate and now a postgraduate at China Academy of Engineering Physics, said he is probably the only one among 120-plus classmates engaged in nuclear research. Many of his fellow students had safety concerns, Shan said.


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