U.S. Espionage Charge Against China General Nuclear Power Corporation Complicates Further UK’s Hinkley Point Nuclear Project

On August 12, one of the main Chinese partners in the Hinkley Point nuclear power project, China General Nuclear Power (CGNPC), was accused of leading efforts to steal U.S. nuclear technology.  According to investigations by the FBI and the National Security Division of the U.S. Justice Department, CGNPC has been recruiting American nuclear experts to obtain sensitive nuclear technology in an effort to speed up Chinese nuclear reactor development. 

One of CGNPC‘s senior advisors, Allen Ho, will be in a U.S. court the week of August 15th to face charges of nuclear espionage.  Mr. Ho was originally arrested in April 2016.  He allegedly began his recruitment activities in 1997.  During an attempt to recruit a U.S. nuclear expert in 2009 he was quoted as saying ‘‘‘China has the budget to spend.  They want to bypass the research stage and go directly to the final design and manufacturing phase.‘  According the U.S. Attorney General, ‘‘‘Mr. Ho, at the direction of a Chinese state-owned nuclear power company allegedly approached and enlisted U.S.-based nuclear experts to provide integral assistance in developing and producing special nuclear material in China.‘

These accusations have heightened the security concerns within the British government concerning Chinese involvement in Hinkley Point, a critical nuclear infrastructure project.  It makes likely the prospect that China would be constructing nuclear power plants in the UK using stolen U.S. nuclear technology.  U.S. investigators describe CGNPC as being under the ‘‘‘direct control‘ of China‘s State Council and that its board of directors is ‘‘‘comprised of members of the Communist Party of China.‘

This is not the first time China has attempted to steal U.S. nuclear technology.  In May 2014, the U.S. government identified five Chinese military hackers who intercepted internal communications of the U.S. nuclear company Westinghouse.  This breach occurred while Westinghouse was in negotiations with China‘s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation over the sharing of its AP1000 reactor design.  The information stolen included technical data on AP1000 reactor and Westinghouse‘s negotiating strategy.

It does not help matters that CGNPC is also slated to help deploy as many as twenty floating nuclear platforms to Beijing‘s illegal artificial islands in the South China Sea under the auspices of the People’s Liberation Army.  This plan represents a major strategic concern of the U.S. and its allies — or certainly should.