KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – A nuclear engineer was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison and a $20,000 fine for trying to help China produce nuclear material under the radar of the U.S. government.
Szuhsiung Ho aka Allen Ho, 67, pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to participate in the development of nuclear material outside the United States in violation of the Atomic Energy Act.
Ho is a dual citizen of China and Delaware, and worked as a nuclear engineer employed by the China General Nuclear Power Company, or CGNPC, the largest nuclear power company in China and one that specializes in making nuclear reactors.
He was also president of the Wilmington, Delaware-based Energy Technology International, or ETI for short.
Prosecutors say that from 1997 through 2016, CGNPC and ETI worked to produce and develop nuclear material in China, “with the intent to secure an advantage to China and without specific authorization to do so from the U.S. Secretary of Energy, as required by law.”
Ho, CGNPC and ETI reportedly sought and received technical assistance from U.S.-based experts in the civil nuclear industry for a nuclear reactor program, advanced fuel assembly program and in-core detector system.
Ho and the Chinese-based company facilitated experts’ travel to China and payments in exchange for their help, prosecutors said.
According to court records, at least one of the experts Ho recruited worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee.
On Thursday, Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan in Knoxville sentenced Ho to 24 months in prison, a year of probation and a $20,000 fine.
Dana Boente, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement that Ho “is being held accountable for enlisting U.S.-based nuclear experts to provide assistance in developing and producing special nuclear material in China for a Chinese state-owned nuclear power company.”
FBI Knoxville Special Agent in Charge Renae McDermott added, “Theft of our nuclear technology by foreign adversaries is of paramount concern to the FBI. Along with our local, state and, federal partners, we will aggressively investigate those who seek to steal our technology for the benefit of foreign governments.”