China nuclear power
Phase II of Fangchenggang nuclear power station under construction in Fangchenggang, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China, Dec. 24, 2015. Getty Images/ChinaFotoPress

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday formally charged Szuhsiung Ho, aka Allen Ho, a nuclear engineer, and a Chinese state-backed power company, for illegally recruiting nuclear experts to help build reactors in China.

Szuhsiung, who was employed with China General Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC), is a naturalized U.S. citizen with dual residency in Delaware and China. He has been arrested and accused of conspiring to produce and develop “special nuclear material” outside the country, the DOJ said in a statement Thursday.

The two-count indictment said that Szuhsiung had approached and enlisted U.S.-based nuclear experts since 1997, with the intent to secure an advantage for China and without specific authorization to do so from the U.S. Secretary of Energy, as required by law.

“The U.S. will use all of its law enforcement tools to stop those who try to steal U.S. nuclear technology and expertise,” Michael Steinbach, executive assistant director at the FBI’s National Security Branch, said in the statement.

According to the DoJ, Szuhsiung arranged payments of $22,698.54 and $15,550.20 for two of the unnamed persons for their services. Around October 2009, Szuhsiung allegedly told the experts that “China has the budget to spend.”

His indictment further alleges that CGNPC facilitated the travel of the U.S.-based experts to China and took payments in exchange for their services.

Szuhsiung and the Chinese company specifically sought information for CGNPC’s Small Modular Reactor Program, Advanced Fuel Assembly Program as well as verification of nuclear reactor-related computer codes, the DOJ said.

Szuhsiung, arrested Wednesday, could face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to produce nuclear material outside the country and for acting as an agent of a foreign government, the release said.