Chinese authorities have detained the country's top nuclear official and launched an investigation into allegations that he wasted government funds, interfered with bidding proceedings and accepted bribes.

Kang Rixin is both the general manager and Communist Party secretary of China National Nuclear Corporation, a massive state-run company that is leading China's efforts to dramatically expand its nuclear power generation.

On Friday, Chinese state media reported that Kang was being held and investigated in a $260 million corruption case. State media reports says Kang is being investigated for allegedly using public funds to buy stocks, accepting bribes and interfering with the bidding process for nuclear power projects.

Kang, a 56-year old engineer by training, is also a member of the Communist Party's senior ruling body - the Communist Party Central Committee - and sits on the party disciplinary committee that is investigating him.

Richard Fisher, a China specialist and senior fellow at the research group, the International Assessment and Strategy Center, says that, given Kang's position within the party, his arrest and investigation is a significant development. "In terms of Chinese Communist Party politics, this is an earthquake. It would be comparable in the United States to the director of the FBI arresting the head of the U.S. Supreme Court," he said.

Fisher notes that the party disciplinary committee that Kang sits on not only carries out investigations, but also determines how laws are applied.

He says Chinese citizens will be watching the case very closely because it is such a rarity in recent times. "Chinese, I think, have been allowed to gain a sense that being a high official is of course not only profitable, but also safe, in terms of one's power and ability to martial protection. The Kang case upsets this impression, at least for the time being," he said.

Officials at Kang's company have yet to comment on the case, and it is still unclear whether Kang has been suspended from his corporate or party posts.

Kang has been the corporation's general manager and Party secretary since September 2003. Just two years ago, he was named one of the "Top Ten Talent Managers of China."

As head of CNNC, Kang was at the forefront of China's efforts to build up its nuclear energy sector. China has 11 operating nuclear reactors and more than 20 others under construction or planned. State media say the government is considering doubling its target for nuclear power generation by 2020.

Kang's investigation is the latest in a series of high-profile corruption cases in recent months that come as China prepares to mark the 60th anniversary in October of the People's Republic.

Also Friday, the former head of the company that owns Beijing's international airport was executed following his conviction on corruption charges.

Over the past year, several powerful politicians in China have lost their posts because of corruption charges. In June, an investigation into the mayor of Shenzhen was launched, and the politically connected official lost his job. The heads of special industrial zones in the cities of Tianjin and Wenzhou are also under investigation.

Last month, the former chairman of a major Chinese oil company, Sinopec Corporation, was convicted on charges of accepting some $29 million in bribes.