An American engineer admitted in federal court on Jan. 6 that he provided unlawful aid to China to help build nuclear reactors.

Justice Department officials said that Szuhsiung Ho, or Allen Ho, helped the Chinese for 20 years by providing technical assistance and recruiting contractors to speed the development of reactor components without seeking required authorization from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Ho, 66, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee on Jan. 6 and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000-fine for violating the Atomic Energy Act.

Justice officials said Ho, a naturalized American citizen, used his position as owner of the Delaware-based Energy Technology International company to provide consultancy work to the China General Nuclear Power Company — a state-owned company specializing in the construction of nuclear reactors.

Beginning in 1997, Ho began conspiring with others to help procure the services of U.S.-based nuclear engineers to assist the CGNPC in reactor development, which he continued until April 2016.

According to Justice officials, Ho "

identified, recruited, and executed contracts with U.S.-based experts from the civil nuclear industry who provided technical assistance related to the development and production of special nuclear material for CGNPC in China," and assisted in arranging their travel and compensation.

Because of Ho's assistance, officials said CGNPC were able to cut research and development costs on a number of programs, including its "Small Modular Reactor Program; Advanced Fuel Assembly Program; Fixed In-Core Detector System; and verification and validation of nuclear reactor-related computer codes."

Sentencing is set for

May 17 in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tenn.