Peng Shilu: A model of the times, a BITer who "injects" nuclear power into China

Always follow the party, forge ahead on a new journey

Editor’s note

Learn about a century of party history and know the red history of Beijing Institute of Technology. In order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the party and promote the in-depth study and education of party history among party members, cadres, teachers and students, the Propaganda Department of the Party Committee of Beijing Institute of Technology meticulously planned and organized its strength to focus on teachers, students and alumni who have made important contributions to the development of the party and the country, launched a series of special reports on "footprints", and led teachers and students to learn history and reason, learn history and increase confidence, learn history and appreciate morality, and learn history by practicing.

This issue launches a special report of Academician Peng Shilu, a pioneer and founder of China's nuclear power field and an outstanding alumnus of Beijing Institute of Technology.

A model of the times to interpret the "Three Ox Spirit" throughout his life

To commemorate Peng Shilu, the pioneer and founder of China's nuclear power field and academician, an outstanding alumnus of Beijing Institute of Technology


Peng Shilu, born in November 1925, a member of the Communist Party of China, a native of Haifeng in Guangdong, a well-known nuclear power expert in China, and one of the pioneers and founders of China's nuclear power field. He was the early leader of the party and the son of the martyr Peng Pai, a pioneer of the Chinese peasant movement. In 1943, Peng Shilu entered the Yan'an Academy of Natural Sciences (the predecessor of Beijing Institute of Technology).

In the 1950s, he responded to the call of the Party Central Committee and actively devoted himself to the development of China's nuclear submarine, as the chief designer, and made outstanding contributions to the successful development of China's first nuclear submarine. After the reform and opening up, he was responsible for the introduction and construction of the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant, and organized the design and construction of the second phase of the Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant, leading the development of China's nuclear industry to achieve a historic leap.

He used to be the former Deputy Minister and Deputy Secretary of the Party Leadership Group of the Sixth Ministry of Machinery Industry, the former Deputy Minister and Party Leadership Member of the former Ministry of Water Resources and Electric Power, and a technology consultant of China National Nuclear Corporation, one of the first academicians of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

On May 26, 2021, the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China decided to posthumously confer the title of “Model of the Times” to Academician Peng Shilu.


"Are you willing to change your career?

"Of course I do, as long as the motherland needs it!"    

In 1956, 31-year-old Peng Shilu firmly answered a question from General Chen Geng who was then Deputy Minister of National Defense.

At that time, Peng Shilu had been in the Soviet Union for 5 years and had just completed his studies with an excellent grade. For the sake of the motherland, he did not hesitate to change his career to learn nuclear power.

Inheriting the red family tradition, and aiming to serve as a "willing ox" for the people

"This is a heroic fighter of the Chinese revolution! This is a glorious member of the Communist Party! This is my father-Comrade Peng Pai!" Behind a photo of a martyr Peng Pai, a powerful line of handwriting was written. In 1950, Peng Shilu's younger brother Peng Hong sent him a photo of his father before he left for the Soviet Union. This was also the first time Peng Shilu knew of his father.


Peng Shilu's father, Peng Pai

On November 18 of the lunar calendar in 1925, Peng Shilu was born in a "red family" in Haifeng County, Guangdong Province. His father was Peng Pai, a pioneer leader of the peasant movement in China. When Peng Shilu was less than five years old, his mother and father died one after another. The young Peng Shilu was also targeted by the Kuomintang reactionaries and lived a life of escape.

"This is Peng Pai's son." The poor folks, as long as they heard this sentence, they would risk their lives to protect the orphan of a martyr who was wanted by the Kuomintang reactionaries. Under the shadow of the white terror, Peng Shilu was taken care of and protected by the poor, and he moved between different families and lived a difficult life.

Once, Peng Shilu was sent to the home of a person named Chen Yongjun. The family had a hard life. There was also a girl who was 3 years older than Peng Shilu. During the festival, the two children scrambled over because they cooked goose meat at home only for the young Peng Shilu. The "aunt" picked up the bamboo pole to drive the goose and beat the sister. With red eyes, she told Peng Shilu, "Don't fight with the sister. If she has done anything wrong, tell me, and I will teach her." Peng Shilu was moved to tears. In Peng Shilu's young heart, the mutual kindness of fellow villagers has been deeply imprinted in their hearts.


The child Peng Shilu

"The caress given to me by dozens of ‘mothers' gave me the instinct to love the people. My parents selflessly distributed the family property to the peasants, and even spared their lives. They gave me the blood to dedicate everything to the people and the motherland. Although my surname is ‘Peng’, my surname will always be of ‘hundred’s surnames’ in my heart.” Peng Shilu once wrote in his self-report.

During those difficult years, Peng Shilu worked as a beggar. He had a high fever in the "Probation Center" in Guangzhou and almost died of paralysis. As a young soldier in the Dongjiang Column, he had severe malaria... The dangers of life again and again were the cover and help of the masses of the people, allowing Peng Shilu to survive, and with the help of the party organization, he eventually went to study in the sacred place of revolution in Yan'an. The repeated trials not only tempered Peng Shilu's extraordinary tenacity, but also allowed him to firmly establish his loyalty to the party and infinite gratitude to the people. Under the influence of the "red family tradition", the young Peng Shilu took the noble feelings of "people first" as his life criterion.

In 1946, while working at the Hebei Coking Plant, Peng Shilu not only took the initiative to help nearby plants to produce sulfuric acid, but also traveled far and wide to visit sick workers. In 1958, after Peng Shilu finished studies and returned to China, the first thing he did was to find his aunt Pan Shunzhen, who had protected him with her life, and the folks who had covered him. Since the 1990s, Peng Shilu and his wife Ma Shuying have insisted on subsidizing students who are living in difficulties. As each semester approaches the beginning of school, they personally send out the subsidy…Peng Shilu dedicated his life to the inheritance of the "Red Family Tradition", fulfilling his promise to become a "willing ox" serving the people throughout his life.


Peng Shilu and students sponsored by him

The ambition of building a strong country, and vowing to be a "pioneer ox" for making swords for the country

"The Yan'an Holy Land has nurtured my self-reliance, hard work, and straightforward character. I firmly believe that communism will undoubtedly prevail. As a member of the Communist Party, I will fight for it for the rest of my life!" Peng Shilu once remembered so proudly, and also used his vow to practice it all his life.

"Finally I find you! Now I want to send you to Yan'an, you must inherit the will of the martyrs, study hard, and actively participate in the revolutionary struggle." In the Office of the Eighth Route Army in Chongqing, Zhou Enlai took Peng Shilu's hand and touched his head affectionately. His affectionate and warm words made young Peng Shilu's tears unstoppable. In 1940, Zhou Enlai sent people to find 14-year-old Peng Shilu and took him and a dozen children of martyrs to Chongqing. At the end of the same year, he sent them to Yan'an to start a new study and life.

The fiery life in the border area of Yan'an made Peng Shilu seem to have an "enthusiasm" from his bones. During the middle school period, Peng Shilu and his classmates added acceleration wheels to the spinning wheel through observation and research, and increased the production speed from spinning two or three taels in half a day to half a jin. It is this kind of experience of doing and learning in Yan'an that not only honed Peng Shilu's tenacious will, but also cultivated his organizational discipline, sowing the seeds for future scientific research.


Peng Shilu studying in Russia

In 1944, Peng Shilu entered the Academy of Natural Sciences (the predecessor of Beijing Institute of Technology) to study. As the first university of science and engineering founded by the Communist Party of China, the unique spiritual temperament of this red university deeply inspired the smug young Peng Shilu, and showed him the way forward. On August 1, 1945, Peng Shilu gloriously joined the Communist Party of China. Because of his outstanding performance, the party organization also made an exception and waived his one-year preparation period. Looking back on his academic experience at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Peng Shilu once summarized that he had gained two major "wealths", one is to develop the character and habit of "self-reliance and hard work", and the other is to form the idea of "emancipating the mind and seeking truth from facts". All these have laid a solid ideological foundation for Peng Shilu's future development of the "no man's land" in China's nuclear power industry.

In 1951, 26-year-old Peng Shilu became the first batch of Chinese students to study in the Soviet Union. During his study abroad, Peng Shilu studied until the early hours of the morning. He reached a perfect score in every subject. When he graduated, he was rated as an "Excellent Chemical Mechanical Engineer" with an excellent score. However, when Peng Shilu returned to China after graduating in 1956, he did not hesitate to change his studies in atomic energy and nuclear power to meet the needs of the country. In the early 1960s, Peng Shilu began to preside over the preliminary development of China's submarine nuclear power plant.


Peng Shilu's grade report card

In the BIT’s Chinese Association of Science and Technology "Old Scientists’ Academic Growth Data Collection Project" document library, there are two slightly obsolete notebooks, more than 1,000 pages of handwritten lecture notes, neat and dense...  It is the earliest textbook for nuclear power plant research in China compiled by Peng Shilu himself.

In the early 1960s, China’s development of nuclear submarines was almost a “blank”. Researchers needed to start with “self-teaching and self-study”. Peng Shilu and others became teachers first, offering five professional courses including reactors, and they were learning, exploring and practicing. They quickly grew into China’s first generation of nuclear dynamics experts.

In order to study China's nuclear submarines, "not afraid of sacrifice" has never been a slogan for Peng Shilu. Once, at the test site, Peng Shilu suddenly suffered severe stomach pain and sweat soaked his whole body. The doctor diagnosed him as an acute gastric perforation. If not treated in time, he would have dangers in life. The doctor who arrived by special plane from Beijing performed the operation on Peng Shilu. Not only had three-quarters of his stomach been removed, but also a perforation scar that had healed on his own had been found. It's hard to imagine Peng Shilu enduring severe pain and sticking to work, but he said lightly: "If you don't be afraid of death, you can't die!" On the road of building a sword for the country, Peng Shilu's tenacious perseverance and fear of sacrifice lead people to admire him.

In 1974, the first nuclear submarine developed entirely by the Chinese was officially delivered to the navy. China became the fifth country in the world to have a nuclear submarine. After that, the nuclear submarine operated safely without accident for more than 40 years.

For many years, in Peng Shilu's simple study, there are no objects that show outstanding achievements. The most conspicuous thing is the pioneer ox sculpture given to him by the workers when he left the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in Guangdong. This is Peng Shilu's treasure, and it is a spiritual monument of the Communists!


The Pioneer Ox Sculpture

Establishing a rigorous style of study and being willing to be a diligent and dedicated "old ox"

"In my life, I was fortunate enough to participate in the whole process of China's nuclear submarine development. After that, by chance, I was again elevated to the throne of the 'Chief Designer." For being the first chief designer of a nuclear submarine, Peng Shilu liked to laugh at himself like this. Behind the indifference to fame and fortune is the "old ox" Peng Shilu's rigorous conscientiousness and courage to take responsibility.

In the initial stage of researching submarine nuclear power plants, in order to establish the physical calculation formula of the reactor, the research team calculated hundreds of thousands of data day and night and established the calculation formula, but it was still not sure to guarantee the absolute safety of the reactor. Therefore, Peng Shilu decided to continue the 1:1 zero power test, and finally found the error and corrected the formula to ensure that the reactor is safe and controllable at room temperature.


Peng Shilu has a nickname called "Peng Paiban". Behind the daring to make a decision is to be clear, and well-informed about major engineering and technical issues. Peng Shilu always maintains a rigorous style of study in his work, clarifying problems through investigation and research, collecting information, and conducting experiments. Decisions must be based on scientific data, without even the slightest carelessness.

As a leader in the field of nuclear power in China, Peng Shilu not only delves into engineering and technical issues, but is also good at making overall considerations from the perspective of the overall development of the nuclear power industry. He believes that the construction of nuclear power plants is a major national initiative. We should not only solve the technical difficulties, but also consider the benefits of return on investment. With this kind of thinking, Peng Shilu devoted himself to studying a large number of economics literature, conducting a large amount of data analysis, and proposed the three major controls of nuclear power plant engineering, namely investment, schedule, and quality control, and established a mathematical model for investment and schedule control. Once, when discussing a certain engineering problem of the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant, Peng Shilu used his own mathematical model to complete the comparison of plans and data calculations that originally took days to complete in just a few hours, which shocked the foreign experts present.

Learning accumulation has become a life habit for Peng Shilu. He insists on accumulating data in his daily work and life. As long as he sees useful content in various materials, books and newspapers, he will never let it go, collect it and analyze it. Someone once compared the notebook in Peng Shilu's hand to a "Book of Heaven", filled with a large amount of concise and condensed data, formulas and charts. Peng Shilu also pays attention to frequently revising and supplementing the data in the notebook to make it continuously accurate and perfect.


"In the entire nuclear submarine development process, I don’t know how many technical difficulties and how many collaborative projects there are, and these are achieved with the high sense of responsibility of all the engineers participating in the development, working together, regardless of fame and fortune, and strictly following the laws of science. Therefore, it is successful." As the chief designer of nuclear submarines, Peng Shilu took indifference to fame and fortune as his work creed.

Peng Shilu treats work rigorously and carefully, but he never cares about gains or losses when he treats honor, and he never asks anything about it. Over the years, Peng Shilu has not cared about grade adjustment, job title evaluation, and salary increase. He has served as a consultant for many units, but he has never been paid. He always said that the country has given me too much, as long as it is beneficial to the country and the nation, it is more valuable than a small amount of money.

"Comrade Peng Shilu is an excellent inheritor of the red family tradition, an outstanding practitioner of the spirit of a scientist, a pioneer ox in China's nuclear power industry, and an outstanding representative of the Communist Party. He inherited the legacy of his ancestors, inherited the red gene, continued the spiritual blood of the Communists, felt the favor of the party, listened to the party, and followed the party, and he was always full of innocence towards the party and the people. " On May 26, 2021, the Propaganda Department of the CPC Central Committee decided to posthumously award Academician Peng Shilu the title of “Model of the Times”.

Academician Peng Shilu's evocative life is a model for practicing the "Three Ox Spirit" and has established a red spiritual monument for the younger generations.