NPI hosts Chinese students on study tour

April 24, 2015
| By: Kelley Ragusa

The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) Nuclear Power Institute (NPI) hosted a group of 15 undergraduate students and two faculty members from Harbin Engineering University (HEU) in China on a three-week study tour at Texas A&M University. The students were all nuclear engineering students in their final year of undergraduate studies. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sponsored the tour through the Division for Asia and the Pacific in the Department of Technical Cooperation. Nuclear engineering students and faculty from Texas A&M have had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad summer program at HEU for the past three years. This was the first time that HEU students have been given a similar opportunity to come to Texas A&M and complete the exchange.

The event was opened by remarks from Dr. K.L. Peddicord, NPI director, Judge Michael Ford of Somervell County in Texas, Mr. Oscar Acuña, section head for the Division for Asia and the Pacific at the IAEA, Dr. Yassin Hassan, department head for the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M, and Professor Qiang Zhao, associate dean of the Nuclear Science and Technology College at HEU. The students attended a reception at the end of the opening day, which gave them the opportunity to re-connect with Texas A&M nuclear engineering students who went to HEU in the summer of 2014.

The second week of the visit was spent touring facilities and locations across Texas. In Glen Rose, Texas, they visited the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Station and met with senior elected officials of Somervell County. The group went to Glen Rose High School, where it met students and teachers who are involved in NPI's outreach programs and experienced life in a U.S. high school. A favorite cultural experience for the students was a morning spent at the Ft. Worth Stockyards before travelling to Waco, Texas to visit the nuclear training facilities at Texas State Technical College. They also traveled to Austin,Texas where they visited the Texas State Capitol, met with state nuclear waste control specialists, and toured the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

The HEU students and faculty spent part of their tour in a professional seminar, where they attended lectures on many topics related to the U.S. commercial nuclear power industry, including: the U.S. nuclear regulatory structure; risk-informed analysis for nuclear power plants; radioactive waste storage; nuclear safety culture; nuclear communications; and human resource development. All of these lectures were presented by prominent current and former industry, government, and agency leaders as well as professors and NPI staff.

The students were also able to participate in an experiment in the Department of Nuclear Engineering's Accelerator Laboratory led by Dr. Lin Shao, nuclear engineering associate professor, and to visit the Texas A&M Nuclear Science Center, the University Power Plant, and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service's Disaster City facility, where they participated in an emergency response activity. Some of the research groups within the Texas A&M Department of Nuclear Engineering also made presentations on their current research efforts.

The end of the official study tour coincided with the beginning of the 2015 American Nuclear Society Student Conference being hosted by Texas A&M, and the HEU students were able to participate in the conference through support from Westinghouse. This was a great opportunity for them to interact with American students in nuclear engineering from around the United States. The HEU students were asked to complete group projects with the help of Texas A&M professional mentors on various topics related to the presentations made during the professional seminar, and the program culminated in the students' group presentations. Following the presentations, Dr. Zhijiang Zhang, dean of the Nuclear Science and Technology College at HEU, spoke about the ongoing collaboration between the nuclear engineering programs at HEU and Texas A&M and conferred certificates on the participants.

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