The Department of Justice announced today that that General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas LLC (GE Hitachi) has agreed to pay $2.7 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that it made false statements and claims to the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) concerning an advanced nuclear reactor design.
GE Hitachi allegedly made false statements to the NRC and Department of Energy about a component of the advanced nuclear Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR) known as the steam dryer. A steam dryer removes liquid water droplets from steam produced by the nuclear reaction that generates electricity in boiling-water type reactors. The NRC requires that applicants for nuclear reactor design certification, such as GE Hitachi, demonstrate that vibrations caused by the steam dryer will not result in damage to a nuclear plant. The government alleged that GE Hitachi concealed known flaws in its steam dryer analysis and falsely represented that it had properly analyzed the steam dryer in accordance with applicable standards and had verified the accuracy of its modeling using reliable data.
Between 2007 and 2012, GE Hitachi received funding from the Department of Energy to cover up to half of the cost of developing, engineering and obtaining design certification for the advanced nuclear ESBWR. The NRC, which regulates the civilian use of nuclear power in the U.S., is responsible for determining whether to approve GE Hitachi’s application for the reactor design certification. The NRC is still reviewing the application and has not reached a final decision on the certification.
“Transparency and honesty are absolutely critical when dealing with issues relating to the design of a nuclear reactor,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery. “The Department of Justice will protect federal funds and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s crucial mandate of ensuring public safety.”
The allegations against GE Hitachi were brought to light by whistleblower LeRay Dandy, a former employee. His share of the settlement has not yet been determined.