Allen Ho was still reeling from his arrest during a conference in Atlanta, Georgia, when armed Federal Bureau of Investigation agents began interrogating the nuclear energy consultant about his work in China, without any lawyer present. That business involved hiring retired US nuclear engineers and consultants to advise China General Nuclear Power Corp, the state-owned company that plans to invest in an £18bn reactor in the UK. Mr Ho, born in Taiwan and a US citizen since 1983, was charged with violating a statute designed to prevent American scientists from helping other countries develop an atomic bomb. The case comes during an era of unprecedented nuclear co-operation between the west and China, but also a time of growing trade friction and accusations of cyber crime and espionage. After his arrest in April, Mr Ho’s imprisonment for six months in a maximum security cell in Tennessee has chilled Chinese technical co-operation with the international nuclear industry and raised accusations of racial profiling in the US. Along with Mr Ho, CGN was also indicted on charges of producing “special nuclear material” outside the US without the required approval from the US Department of Energy. This is an issue because engineering decisions made in China affect the world’s reactor fleet. China is the furthest ahead in constructing the European Pressurized Reactor destined for Hinkley Point in the UK as well as the AP1000, an American-designed reactor under construction in China and the US. And under bilateral accords CGN and other Chinese groups will supply components for US and UK reactors. “China is the only country that can provide the information at present” for the AP1000, said Zhang Qiang, Asme’s chief representative in China. Other forms of international co-operation continue. Mr Ho does not deny helping CGN improve operations at its nuclear plants but his defence insists that is a far cry from making material for nuclear weapons. Frank Wu, chairman of the Committee of 100, an advocacy group, said the indictment had inflamed fears of “racial profiling” in the Chinese-American scientific community.
FT 25th Oct 2016 read more »