GEH agrees settlement over allegations

24 January 2014

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has agreed to pay $2.7 million to resolve a lawsuit over alleged false claims related to a component for its ESBWR reactor design. The company expressly denies the allegations.

 ESBWR (GE Hitachi)
ESBWR (Image: GEH)

The allegations, filed under the US False Claims Act, related to the plant-based load evaluation methodology GEH used for loads in the steam dryer of its Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). The reactor is currently undergoing design certification by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

According to the US Department of Justice (DoJ), the federal government alleged that GEH had "concealed known flaws" in the analysis of the steam dryer and had made false representations that it had analysed the component in accordance with applicable standards and verified the accuracy of its modelling.

In a statement, GEH gave its reasons for agreeing to the settlement: "Even though GEH denies the allegations, we believe that resolution of this matter supports our continuing efforts to maintain and enhance a positive working relationship with the US government, and more specifically the Nuclear Regulatory Commission". The DoJ also noted that the claims are allegations only, and that there has been no determination of liability.

The allegations against GEH arose from a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former employee, LeRay Dandy. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens can sue on behalf of the US government and share in any recovery. Dandy's share of the settlement has not been determined, the DoJ notes.

Steam dryers are non-safety critical components used to remove excess moisture from steam created in a nuclear power plant's reactor before it is delivered to the turbine generator to generate electricity. GEH points out that its steam dryers "have worked effectively the world over for more than 50 years."

The lawsuit has caused a two-year delay to GEH's application for design certification for the ESBWR. A final safety evaluation report and the final design approval for the reactor were announced in March 2011 by the NRC, which said it had found the design to be safe and technically acceptable after six years of study. This should have paved the way for the NRC's final rulemaking process, but the potential steam dryer issues prompted the regulator to instigate an audit of the steam dryer methodology, followed by further analyses and reviews. The design certification rulemaking will resume after a supplemental final safety evaluation report including the NRC's safety review of the steam dryer issues is completed.

As well as the design certification, the NRC is currently reviewing construction and operation licence applications ESBWRs for Dominion's North Anna and Detroit Edison's Fermi sites.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News