Writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences say that despite having 40 percent of the world's proposed nuclear power plants, the country lacks an independent regulatory agency and sufficient staff to keep pace with nuclear power development.
Scientist Qiang Wang and colleagues hailed the Chinese government announcement it would suspend approvals for nuclear power plant development across the country following the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear facility.
"This decision, uncharacteristic of the Chinese government usually racing ahead with ambitious infrastructure projects, was right and timely," they wrote.
"However, the open question remains how the Chinese government is going to improve nuclear energy safety. China has almost become the nuclear industry's living laboratory for new reactor designs and the learning that comes from actual construction."
China's nuclear administrative systems are fragmented among multiple agencies and lack a fully independent safety and regulatory agency, they said, and the country is behind the United States, France and Japan when it comes to staff and budget to oversee operational reactors.