Miami-Dade County

Former FPL manager accused of trading nuclear secrets in Chinese spy case

The FPL nuclear energy plant at Turkey Point, March 28, 2016. The two nuclear Westinghouse pressurized water reactors are shown on the right side of the photo. One of the oil/gas units in the center of the photo is being disassembled.
The FPL nuclear energy plant at Turkey Point, March 28, 2016. The two nuclear Westinghouse pressurized water reactors are shown on the right side of the photo. One of the oil/gas units in the center of the photo is being disassembled. emichot@miamiherald.com

A former Florida Power & Light manager traded nuclear information from the company for cash to assist one of China’s top nuclear power companies, according to federal court records unsealed in Tennessee last week.

The unnamed former FPL employee was recruited by Szuhsiung Ho, also known as Allen Ho, to help China General Nuclear Power Co. develop special nuclear material in China, according to the grand jury indictment unsealed April 14 in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Ho, a Delaware resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, is a nuclear engineer employed by China General Nuclear Power. The indictment charges Ho and his Delaware-based company, Energy Technology International, with two counts — conspiracy to unlawfully produce special nuclear material outside the U.S. and acting as an agent of a foreign government while in the U.S.

The unnamed former FPL employee was a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Taiwan who left Juno Beach-based FPL in April 2010 to go to work for the Tennessee Valley Authority as a senior manager for the TVA’s nuclear power group until 2014, the indictment said. FPL confirmed Wednesday that the former manager was employed from 1988 until he retired in 2010 as the Nuclear Reliability and Risk Manager. The indictment lists his job at FPL as “Probabilistic Risk Assessment Manager.”

FPL has two nuclear plants — Turkey Point in Homestead and St. Lucie on Hutchinson Island.

The former FPL manager is identified in the indictment only as U.S. Person 1, or USP1, and it is not known if charges have been filed against him or five other unnamed individuals who allegedly worked with Ho. The indictment says USPI was first introduced to Ho in the early 1990s through the Chinese American Nuclear Technology Association.

Ho was allegedly on assignment to recruit technical assistance from U.S.-based experts to help China General Nuclear Power design and manufacture certain components for nuclear reactors more quickly by reducing the time and financial costs of research and development, the indictment says. China General Nuclear Power is a government-owned company overseen by members of China’s communist party.

“As this situation involves an active and ongoing legal matter, we do not have any comment on the status of this case,” FPL spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood said in an email statement. “All questions about this case should be directed to the proper authorities.”

Rob Gould, FPL’s chief communications officer, said via email that the company “did cooperate with several government agencies as part of their investigation.”

According to the indictment, Ho would tell his U.S.-based recruits: “China has the budget to spend. They asked me if I could form a comprehensive team to provide technology transfer in design and manufacturing, related training and technical supports.”

The goal, he is quoted as saying, is for China to “be able to design their Nuclear Instrumentation System independently and manufacturing them independently after the project is complete ... They said the budget is no issue.”

In 2004, the former FPL manager allegedly provided Ho with Florida Power & Light information “regarding nuclear power plant outage times” for use at China General’s Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant in exchange for payment.

“Daya Bay hopes you can bring them as many paper reports and documents as you could ...” the indictment says Ho wrote the former FPL manager on March 17, 2004.

From April 26 to April 30, 2004, the indictment says, the former FPL manager traveled to China and provided consulting services to the Daya Bay Nuclear Plant.

In 2013, when USP1 was working with the Tennessee Valley Authority, he allegedly traveled to China again to deliver Electric Power Research Institute restricted reports on nuclear power and to provide nuclear consulting to China General. The EPRI is a non-profit organization that conducts research on issues related to the electric power industry.

Among the documents provided were reports on technology innovation, material management, a method to predict the extent of damage in power plant piping and fuel reliability guidelines.

In December 2015, Ho allegedly sent the manager a $15,555 check to a Chattanooga address for his help in 2013 and 2014.

Ho described the money as “his company’s slush fund,” the indictment says.

There are six individuals listed in the indictment who allegedly worked with Ho as consultants. FPL and Tennessee Valley Authority are the only companies named. The employers or former employers of the other consultants are not named.

Mary Ellen Klas: meklas@miamiherald.com and @MaryEllenKlas

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