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GE Hitachi To Pay $2.7 Million To Settle Allegations of False Claims Regarding ESBWR Reactor Design

Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR)

GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy will pay $2.7 million to resolve allegations it made false claims about one of its nuclear reactor designs.  

It was a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former employee of the Wilmington-based company that launched the case.

The allegations revolve around a component of the Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor – known as the ESBWR.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is the government agency that licenses nuclear reactors in the U.S., requires that applicants demonstrate that vibrations caused by the steam dryer will not cause damage to the nuclear plant.  But the Department of Justice alleges that GE-Hitachi concealed known flaws in its steam dryer analysis and misrepresented data verifying it met applicable standards.

Christopher White is a spokesperson for GE.

"The key point on this matter is, as the DOJ states, the claims that are resolved by the settlement are strictly allegations.   There has never been any determination of liability or guilt, and GE-Hitachi has vigorously denied the allegations through every step of the process." 

White says the ESBWR is one of the safest reactor designs, and he says the nuclear giant agreed to the settlement in order to effectively move forward with the project. 

Between 2007 and 2012, the Department of Energy funded up to half of GE’s costs for developing, engineering, and obtaining design certification for the ESBWR.   Whether GE’s settlement money will go to reimburse the DOE is not yet clear.   That's a decision in the hands of the DOJ. 

The NRC is still considering certification of the ESBWR design.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.