U.S. Engineers Accused of Providing Nuclear Power Information to China

US engineers accused of giving nuclear secrets to China

China General Nuclear Power Co. (CGNPC), Energy Technology International (ETI) and its owner are accused of engaging in espionage by enlisting U.S.-based nuclear experts to provide assistance in developing and producing special nuclear materials for China under the government’s radar.

Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho, his company, ETI, and CGNPC were indicted on two counts of conspiracy to unlawfully engage and participate in the production and development of special nuclear material outside the U.S., without the required authorization from the Energy Department (DOE). Ho was also charged with conspiracy to act in the U.S. as an agent of a foreign government. The case is being investigated by the FBI, the Tennessee Valley Authority-Office of the Inspector General, the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations.

“The prosecution of individuals who potentially endanger our U.S. citizens by violating laws enacted to ensure our national security has been and will remain a priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in eastern Tennessee,” said Acting U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Tennessee Nancy Stallard Harr.

According to the indictment, Ho is a nuclear engineer employed by CGNPC as a senior advisor and is also the owner and president of ETI. He holds dual residency in Delaware and China and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. From 1997 through April 2016, Ho, CGNPC and ETI allegedly sought technical assistance related to, among other things, CGNPC’s Small Modular Reactor Program; CGNPC’s Advanced Fuel Assembly Program; CGNPC’s Fixed In-Core Detector System; and verification and validation of nuclear reactor-related computer codes. The indictment also alleges that Ho, under the direction of CGNPC, identified, recruited and executed contracts with U.S.-based experts who provided technical assistance related to the development of special nuclear material for CGNPC in China and facilitated travel to China and payments to the U.S.-based experts in exchange for their services.

During the same time period, Ho conspired with others to knowingly act as an agent of China without prior notification to the Attorney General, as required by law. Around Oct. 4, 2009, Ho allegedly told experts that “China has the budget to spend” and he needed the help so China could “design their nuclear instrumentation system independently and manufacture them independently after the project is complete.” Ho made it clear in further correspondence with the U.S. experts that he was in charge of recruiting the engineers at the direction of the CGNPC and the China Nuclear Power Technology Research Institute, a subsidiary of CGNPC, and that he was to do so secretly.

The indictment lists six unidentified American co-conspirators, including a TVA senior manager for the probabilistic risk assessment in the Nuclear Power Group from April 2010 to September 2014, who previously held the same role with Florida Power & Light. The indictment also lists four other unnamed Americans who work for an unidentified Pennsylvania-based nuclear firm, while the fifth worked for an unidentified Colorado-based firm that supplied technical support to the nuclear industry.

If convicted, the espionage charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of conspiring to act as a foreign agent of government carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison along with fines and supervised release.

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