A U.S. nuclear engineer has been indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly conspiring over two decades to export nuclear secrets to one of China’s leading state-owned nuclear enterprises, China General Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC). The engineer, Szuhsiung Ho, is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from China and, according to the indictment, was acting “at the direction of [CGNPC],” which was also indicted in the recently unsealed documents. The indictment charges Mr. Ho and CGNPC with producing and developing special nuclear material outside of the United states without the required approvals from the U.S. Energy Department.
The transgressions reportedly occurred as a result of Mr. Ho’s private company, Energy Technology International, serving as a paid advisor to CGNPC and facilitating the travel of U.S.-based experts to China for the purposes of transferring design, technical support and manufacturing-related training. Mr. Ho’s efforts, for example, reportedly delivered to CGNPC technical reports, in one case, that were only available to members of the Electric Power Research Institute. According to the indictment, Mr. Ho’s contributions were sought by CGNPC for the specific purposes of advancing their “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.”
Mr. Ho reportedly took his direction not only from CGNPC directly, but also via its subsidiary, China Nuclear Power Technology Research Institute. This case is only the latest example of China’s aggressive and, at times, criminal pursuit of foreign technology, with a track record now of efforts that specifically target the nuclear industry. Past indictments have revealed attempts to secure this information via cyber theft and also with the direct sponsorship of state-owned enterprises. This case underscores the special risks associated with these enterprises and the need to maintain close scrutiny of their international operations.