World's top nuclear watchdog: 'Business as usual is not an option'

But nuclear energy will continue to be a major source of power for much of the world, so adequate safety reviews are essential, Amano said.

“[N]uclear power will remain important for many countries, so it is imperative that the most stringent safety measures are implemented everywhere,” he said.

Amano also raised concerns about the independence of national nuclear regulatory agencies.

“All countries should ensure that their regulatory bodies are as effective as possible,” he said. “Regulators must be genuinely independent, adequately funded, and staffed by well-trained personnel.”

In addition, Amano called on the IAEA to strengthen its safety and emergency response standards.

While the Obama administration has insisted that properly regulated nuclear energy is safe, other countries have moved to abandon their nuclear power plants as a result of the disaster in Japan. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing a plan to phase out the country's nuclear reactors over the next decade.

The speech comes amid an ongoing two-part review of U.S. nuclear reactor safety ordered by President Obama in the aftermath of the May 11 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is about 60 days into its initial 90-day review. The initial review will be followed by a longer-term six-month analysis of the country’s nuclear fleet that could result in regulatory changes.

But critics have alleged that the NRC is an ineffective oversight agency.

The Associated Press reported Monday that the NRC has “repeatedly” weakened safety standards.

Here’s an excerpt from the AP investigation:

“Time after time, officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have decided that original regulations were too strict, arguing that safety margins could be eased without peril, according to records and interviews.”

“The result? Rising fears that these accommodations by the NRC are significantly undermining safety — and inching the reactors closer to an accident that could harm the public and jeopardize the future of nuclear power in the United States.”