China Investigates Top Nuclear Official


BEIJING — The top official of China’s civilian and military nuclear power programs is being investigated for “grave violations of discipline,” a phrase often used in corruption inquiries, the Chinese Communist Party’s disciplinary committee has announced.

The official, Kang Rixin, is the general manager and Communist Party secretary of China National Nuclear Corporation, a vast holding company that is spearheading plans to increase the nation’s capacity to generate nuclear power at least sixfold in the next decade.

Mr. Kang, 56, also is a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, the party’s senior ruling body, and sits on the same party disciplinary committee that is investigating him.

The announcement, issued late Wednesday, gave no indication of the accusations against Mr. Kang. The Beijing-based business journal Caijing and China Business News Daily quoted unidentified sources as saying the inquiry centered on about $263 million in company funds that apparently were invested and lost in the stock market.

The publications also stated that investigators were looking into suspected bidding irregularities in nuclear power plant contracts.

The inquiry is the latest in a series of investigations, involving high-ranking Chinese officials, that some experts believe are supported by President Hu Jintao, who has often called for a nationwide crackdown on corruption.

It was unclear whether Mr. Kang had been suspended from his corporate or party posts. A press official at the nuclear corporation hung up in the midst of a request to comment on the report.

With more than 100 sub-units, 14 scientific institutes and 280,000 employees, China National Nuclear is among a select group of state-owned companies whose business is monitored at the highest levels of the national government. Its businesses cover everything from uranium mining to reactor design and construction to the building of nuclear weapons.

The company has increasingly focused on nuclear power, and turned a profit of $701 million last year. China has 11 nuclear power plants, with another 24 on the drawing boards or under way, according to the World Nuclear Association, an industry group.

Mr. Kang took over the reins at China Nuclear with a pledge to transform it from a stodgy state-owned enterprise to a modern profit-oriented company. The company’s Hong Kong subsidiary, CNNC international Limited, recently bought a Canadian uranium mining firm, Western Prospector Group Ltd.

Mr. Kang was named one of China’s top business managers in 2007.

Several members of China’s powerful elite have fallen to corruption charges in the past year, led by Xu Zongheng, the politically connected mayor of Shenzhen, who lost his job in mid-June. Last month saw the conviction of Chen Tonghai, the former chairman of the Chinese oil company Sinopec, on charges of taking some $29 million in bribes from 1999 to mid-2007.