China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with northern Chinese megacity Tianjin that includes establishing a nuclear industry university with master’s and doctorate programmes, South China Morning Post reported on 21 June. The agreement aims to make Tianjin a high-end technological base for the developer, while promoting the transformation and development of the city’s innovation industries.

CNNC in 2012 announced plans to set up a “corporate university” to train more specialised talent and fill the personnel gap in the nuclear industry. Only 20% of the 2,300 graduates hired by the company have nuclear-related majors, according to Wan Gang, director of the China Institute of Atomic Energy, CNNC’s main research body. Wan said the existing nuclear-related majors “cannot satisfy the demand for talent” in fields such as nuclear fusion, uranium enrichment and post-processing.

The development of China’s nuclear industry is key to reducing its reliance on coal-powered plants, with a long-term target of 58 gigawatts of installed nuclear capacity by 2020. As of November, China had 37 nuclear power units in commercial operation, with another 19 under construction, according to state media reports. However, nuclear energy supplies only around 3% of total power usage.

The agreement comes after CNNC earlier in June unveiled a nuclear industry university in Suzhou, Jiangsu province that would help China advance from “a nuclear power to a nuclear superpower” and provide a high level of training for workers involved in the belt and road infrastructure initiative, according to its website. CNNC has also signed strategic cooperation agreements on training with at least nine Chinese universities, the website says. Chinese colleges with nuclear technology programmes include Tsinghua University, Peking University and Xian Jiaotong University.

Wang Yinan, an expert with the Development Centre of the State Council of China, said in an interview with the Global Times that the shortage of qualified personnel could jeopardise the security of the Chinese nuclear industry. "China has many nuclear power projects and this industry will continue to develop, but this has led to an acute shortage of qualified personnel for design, engineering, construction, operation and safety control," he said.

Citing an informed source, said the construction of the Tianjin Nuclear Industry University will begin this year. The site for the future university, the cost of the project, and the sources of funding have, not yet been announced.