In this chapter, we historicise China’s experience in deploying nuclear power in a hierarchical electricity system, discussing how and to what extent the idea of nuclear energy safety has shaped the institutions governing nuclear power plant development in China. In doing so we also analyse the outcomes of the regulatory regime, focussing on reactor design and the costs associated with it.

To some extent, the scientific experiments of the third-generation nuclear-technology reactors coincided with the developmental needs for the Western firms that particularly arise Sino-foreign cooperation on China’s soil. Such kinds of collaboration were built on the ground of a common interest in the political and economic imperatives of both policy elites. However pressure from local forces opposed to particular nuclear projects have slowed long-term investment in the sector.

China’s safety philosophy on nuclear power plants and its cultural biases of hierarchical political norms have led to various unexpected aspects of the consequences that are unexpected by both central and local policymakers. The safety regime could be classed as weak ecological modernisation within which the emerging linkage of localism and perceived risks seemed to have made it difficult for the technology elite to implement this pursuit of a unilateral nuclear energy revival.