An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team, said on 8 September that China’s regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety is effective, but will require further development in view of China’s rapid nuclear energy growth. The 10-day IRRS mission found that most of the recommendations made during an initial assessment in 2010 had been implemented, although further work is needed in areas such as managing long-term NPP operation and waste management.

The 14-member team said the authorities should continue progress toward adopting China’s Nuclear Safety Act, ensuring that it embeds in law, the independence and transparency of the regulatory body, and that it assigns responsibility for safety to operators in line with IAEA safety principles. The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) should expand requirements for operators to ensure financial provisions for decommissioning to include facilities other than NPPs and fuel cycle facilities. The MEP/NNSA should also create guidelines for applications to extend NPP operating periods, and establish a process for reviewing those applications.

IRRS team leader Ramzi Jammal, who is executive vice-president and chief regulatory operations officer at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, said: "China’s plan for unparalleled expansion of the use of nuclear power poses a challenge for the regulatory body, which will have to invest effort and resources to ensure that it has the capacity to effectively regulate nuclear and radiation safety." The mission's final report will be submitted to the Chinese government in three months.

There are currently 35 nuclear power reactors operating in mainland China with a combined capacity of 31,617MWe. A further 20 units are under construction. China plans to have around 90 reactors in operation or under construction by 2020, with nuclear energy supplying about 4% of its electricity.