North Carolina-based General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas LLC (GE Hitachi) agreed to pay $2.7 million to resolve allegations that it provided false statements to the Department of Energy (DOE) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about an advanced nuclear reactor design.
GE Hitachi is alleged to have made false statements to the NRC and DOE about a component of its Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) known as the steam dryer. The NRC requires applicants for the reactor design certification demonstrate that vibrations caused by the steam dryer will not damage the plant.
The allegations said GE Hitachi concealed known flaws in its steam dryer analysis and falsely represented that it properly analyzed the steam dryer and had verified the accuracy of its modeling using reliable data. The allegations were made under a whistleblower lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act by LeRay Dandy, a former employee of GE Hitachi.
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission supports the settlement and appreciates the Department of Justice’s close coordination during its investigation of these allegations,” said Director of NRC’s Office of New Reactors Glenn Tracy. “The NRC continues to rigorously review the ESBWR application in order to reach a final design certification decision, ensure compliance with NRC regulations and protect public health and safety.”
GE Hitachi received funding from the DOE between 2007 and 2012 to cover up to half of the cost of developing, engineering and obtaining design certification for the ESBWR.
“Fraud involving government contracts will be zealously pursued in North Carolina,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Thomas G. Walker. “We encourage our citizens to report frau related to government contracts and our federal programs.”
GE Hitachi has denied the allegations throughout the process.
"Even though GEH denies the allegations, we believe that resolution of this matter supports our continuing efforts to maintain and enhance a positive working relationship with the U.S. government, and more specifically, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," the company said in a statement.
"The steam dryer, a non-safety related piece of equipment, removes excess moisture from steam created in a nuclear power plant's reactor before it is delivered to the turbine generator to produce low carbon, baseload electricity," the statement continues. "GEH steam dryers have worked effectively the world over for more than 50 years. As recent as the fall of 2012, the PBLE (plant-based load evaluation) methodology was successfully utilized as part of the extended power uprate of one of the largest boiling water reactors in the world."