The Chinese company with a major stake in the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station has been charged by the US government over nuclear espionage, according to the US justice department.
In a 17-page indictment, the US government said nuclear engineer Allen Ho, employed by the China General Nuclear Power Company, and the company itself had unlawfully conspired to develop nuclear material in China without US approval and “with the intent to secure an advantage to the People’s Republic of China”.
Assistant US attorney general John P Carlin said: “Allen Ho, at the direction of a Chinese state-owned nuclear power company allegedly approached and enlisted US-based nuclear experts to provide integral assistance in developing and producing special nuclear material in China.
“Ho did so without registering with the Department of Justice as an agent of a foreign nation or authorisation from the US Department of Energy”, Carlin continued. “Prosecuting those who seek to evade US law by attaining sensitive nuclear technology for foreign nations is a top priority for the National Security Division.”
Ho allegedly conspired with China from 1997 to April 2016, said the indictment that was unsealed in April. Conspiring to unlawfully engage and participate in the development of nuclear material outside of the US carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of $250,000 (£192,000). Conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government in the US carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
“The federal government has regulations in place to oversee civil nuclear cooperation”, said Michael Steinbach, executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch. “If those authorities are circumvented, this can result in significant damage to our national security.
“The US will use all of its law enforcement tools to stop those who try to steal US nuclear technology and expertise.”
Ho was born in China and is a naturalised US citizen with dual residency. CGNCP, the largest nuclear power company in China, is owned by that country’s state-owned assets supervision and administration commission of the state council.