• Mon
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 3:38am
NewsChina
SCIENCE

Chinese scientists claim EU snub over jobs on nuclear fusion project

In new case of perceived bias, experts say country is not fairly represented on nuclear project in France despite paying its share

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 3:10am

While Beijing has criticised Nasa's "discriminatory" decision to bar Chinese researchers from a conference, the country's scientists are fuming over another perceived slight they feel could be far more consequential.

Many Chinese scientists are frustrated over what they see as the country's disproportionately low participation in what has been hailed as one of the world's most important scientific projects: the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

Only 4 per cent of the scientists and other staff are Chinese, although the country has pledged 9 per cent of the funding.

"The discrimination against Chinese [at ITER] is an open secret," said Liu Huajun , a nuclear fusion scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP).

The experimental nuclear fusion reactor in Cadarache, France, could potentially deliver clean, safe and inexhaustible nuclear energy one day. Dubbed by some as an "artificial sun", the reactor would mimic the energy-generating process of a star, fusing small atoms into larger ones and harnessing the energy released.

In 2006, China joined six other parties - India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the European Union and the United States - in a co-operative bid to develop the groundbreaking technology.

Since no party wanted to shoulder the project's initial €10 billion (HK$105 billion) cost on its own, each agreed to put up a share of the money, with the understanding they would be able to send a proportionate share of the scientists and other staffers employed by ITER.

The EU provided the lion's share of the funding, 46 per cent. The other countries, including China, each contributed 9 per cent of the cost, which has since been increased to €16 billion.

As of January, however, only 18 Chinese nationals had been hired to work on the project, or 4 per cent of the 452-strong staff, according to the organisation's website. Most were working in non-core sectors or administration. In contrast, two-thirds of the staff are from European Union. Japan accounts for 7 per cent, India, South Korea and the US 6 per cent each and Russia 5 per cent.

Some Chinese scientists say the result could deprive the country of expertise needed to harness any breakthroughs that come about during the research.

"Even India has sent more people than we do, and India barely provides any significant hardware to the project," Liu said.

Chinese scientists have become increasingly frustrated about their exclusion from sensitive international projects. This week, Beijing criticised the US space agency for barring Chinese representatives from next month's Kepler conference on exoplanets in California.

The US space agency has since vowed to reconsider the applications of Chinese scientists who were denied access to the conference on security grounds.

Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said the situation was "unfortunate" and pledged to take a fresh look at the applications.

The ITER said its hiring process was fair and in keeping with the procedure set by the parties. Spokesman Dr Michel Claessens said allegations of discrimination were "totally false".

Professor Chen Wenge , another IPP fusion scientist who participated in the project at an early stage, said China's expertise in the field had improved dramatically.

Chen blamed the lack of Chinese staff at ITER on officials at the Ministry of Science and Technology, who had not "fought hard enough" to make sure the country was better represented.

 

Share

More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
17

This article is now closed to comments

caractacus
Your headline is misleading; China is not PAYING its share, it has OFFERED 9% of the funding. No doubt in return it expects to get its hands on sensitive technology on the cheap which it will copy in breach of anyone else's intellectual property rights. In the light of China's totally untrustworthy record, the USA, EU and NASA are quite right to exclude Chinese who have often simply spied and stolen other countries' technological secrets. China itself always discriminates, is racially exclusive and never shares with anyone but Chinese, yet when other countries and organisations respond in kind they scream "racist."
Bigoted hypocrites with double standards.
newgalileo
While I do not fully approve the "discrimination", our Chinese friends should understand they are paying the price for being well know to spy and copy technologies whenever they can, making everyone suspicious. Not that others won't do the same – the Chinese just push it too far.
aplucky1
yes , blame everyone else, the whole world is picking on the poor chinese
why does nobody like us?
Brit_in_China
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM ALERT: ITER/Nuclear Fusion will most likely be the saviour of the human race. It is perfectly conceivable that NF will provide the world with volumes of energy so vast that we could conceivably use that excess energy to lock up carbon in vast quantities thereby, hopefully, reducing or reversing the effects of global warming. ITER could lead to a global thermostat.
We are talking about EUR 16 billion. Even if it were EUR 100 billion, why on earth should such a project be so difficult to find funding for. The Federal Reserve is inventing out of thin air some USD 80 billion per month to bail out its incompetent Government.
In respect of the Chinese: putting aside some of the allegations of China being the spies of the world, which looks somewhat ridiculous post Snowden; if you do not invite them to the ITER party, they will rustle up Hundreds of Billions and just do it by themselves. To make the assumption that the Chinese are not technologically capable of doing so, and that they could only possibly evolve the technology with help from America or Europe displays a level of engineering ignorance of biblical proportions.
I am an Engineer living and working in China. I have my own factory in China. I have been to factories here in China that make the American equivalents look like bike repair shops. Europe and America: get off your sanctimonious high horses before you fall off.
andreaswagner
Why would ITER hire 'scientists', who are most certainly spies and CCP members, and who represent a fascist and repressive regime? Has this world gone mad?
caractacus
The racist and Chinese chauvinist Pierce Lam again. China's impressive developmental success has been founded on foreign capital, foreign technology and foreign know how. What the Chinese cannot get by fair means they get by foul, especially by spying and stealing other countries' industrial and scientific technology. Against that background, it doesn't have any proper entitlements.
chaz_hen
You have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people....
HK-Lover
What is China's problem ? The financial contribution is obviously not the agreed criteria to determine the number of staff because otherwise each country except the EU would have 43 staff members. None of the other countries has anything close to that.
The hiring process has been agreed by all participants incl. China. Is there any prove that ITER is not following the process China has agreed on ?
That Chinese scientists and engineers are not openly welcome all over the world is unfortunate but is simply the consequence of the non-respect shown by China's real life attitude towards intellectual property rights.
I have worked in and with Chinese factories and often the R&D department really consisted only of a room with a screwdriver and plier - needed to dismantle the competition's products and to copy them. Sorry but fact is fact.
mrgoodkat
"By the same notion, none of the other countries paying 9% is represented at 9%"
And yet there is no report about the other countries complaining about their share.
Could it just be that there are more, qualified scientists in Europe or that the Chinese scientists aren't good enough by international standards?
pslhk
If comparative data show underemployment of Chinese scientists
then Claessens can’t allege to hiring procedures as an excuse
Members of NPT are obliged to share nuclear technology for peaceful use
Prof Chen may be correct that China can’t be too trusting
China’s impressive developmental successes have caused much envy
Stagnant and regressive countries must learn to recognize the country’s proper entitlements
dienamik
The disparity is European favoured. ITER is funded as follows
EU: 45%
everyone else: 9%
EU pays for less than half, but accounts for 2/3s as this article states. By the same notion, none of the other countries paying 9% is represented at 9%.
dienamik
Actually what is fact is among the top 1% most cited international papers according to the Science Citation Index, China is 4th place in contribution.
dunndavid
I agree nuclear fusion is a very important technology.
I disagree with your characterizations about Chinese engineers and Chinese factories. I deal with Chinese power generators. I have met a few good Chinese engineers ... in their 80s or in the United States. As for the factories, really appalling, compared to Americans plants truly awful. Not sure what kind of factories you have visited in China and the U.S.
dienamik
Completely false.
1. The EU, as host party for the ITER complex, is contributing 45% of the cost, with the other six parties contributing 9% each.[2][3][4] [CONTRIBUTING, not an OFFER]
2. "Even India has sent more people than we do, and India barely provides any significant hardware to the project," Liu said. [meaning China provides signficant hardware]
3. ****en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EAST you have no clue about China's Nuclear Fusion capability.
shuike
I'm glad the Chinese are not as dumb as you. Would you contribute 9% of the costs if they prohibits your participation?
chaz_hen
Just a desperate, old windbag that no one else will listen to and has no other venue to pump out his three syllable words for an uninterested audience.
caractacus
Try looking in the objective mirror to find out why, if you are capable of seeing your own cultural and racial prejudices.

Login

SCMP.com Account

or