by Ben Vernia | January 23rd, 2014
On January 23, the Department of Justice announced that a joint venture between General Electric and Hitachi had agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle charges, initially brought by a former employee whistleblower, that the company submitted false claims for federal funding for the design of an advanced nuclear reaction. According to DOJ’s press release:
The Justice Department announced today 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, a provider of nuclear energy products and services headquartered in Wilmington, N.C., is a subsidiary of General Electric Company (GE) that is also partially owned by Hitachi Ltd., a multinational engineering and manufacturing firm headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. GE is headquartered in Fairfield, Conn.
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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.
The Department stated that the whistleblower’s share of the settlement had not yet been determined.