Impeached governor inked secret deal to construct fast breeder reactor

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Governor of Northern Marianas Benigno Fitial

Former governor of the Northern Mariana Islands, Benigno R. Fitial stands alone in history as the first governor of any U.S. territory to be the subject of impeachment, but only the ninth United States governor to be impeached and removed from office.  On August 28th, 2012, while Governor Fitial was in the United States for the Republican National Convention, an impeachment resolution was filed in the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives, which accused the governor of multiple felonies, multiple acts of public corruption, and neglecting official duties.  It was even included in the impeachment filed that the governor had allowed a federal prisoner released in order to bring him to the governor’s private mansion to give him a massage.

It is now being discovered that former governor Fitial and then Attorney General Edward Buckingham signed a deal in June of 2012, which would’ve constructed nuclear power plant in partnership with Global Energy Corporation.  The deal was only discovered last week by newly elected Governor Eloy S. Inois, who assumed his post on February 20th of this year, even though since August of last year the Saipan Tribune had been questioning the Fitial administration about rumors of a possible nuclear energy agreement, but had been stonewalled in response.

According to the dates on the document, Fitial and Buckingham signed off on the nuclear energy document around the time GEC scientists and officials, including CEO Dr. Jay W. Khim, visited Saipan during June of 2012.

The terms of the deal sound eerily similar to a deal which Global Energy Corporation offered to Guam in February of 2012, in which the location of the reactor was not even discussed until after a memorandum of understanding had been signed.  Later that month, the press reported that Global Energy Corp. was proposing to build a 50-megawatt plant as a pilot project on Guam, on a build, operate and transfer basis for which GEC would obtain its own financing. The reports argued that Guam ratepayers would pay only for the electric power generated. GEC CEO Dr. Khim even said that he would finance the estimated $250 million plant himself. “No initial money for Guam at all,” Khim assured the press. “I’ll pay all the money; I’ll run it; and give Guam cheap electricity.” He added that once his company and the CCU enter into a memorandum of understanding, other issues, such as the location of the reactor, will be explored.

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The Global Energy Corporation is a nuclear industry corporation established in Virginia, with a mission to develop and commercialize proprietary fast-breeder reactor technology it dubbed “GeNiE”, which features a logo incorporating an atom atop of a Genie’s Bottle.  Although the document signed does infer the willingness of Fitial’s administration to invest in fast-breeder technology, it would be hard to hold the Marianas Commonwealth to the terms of the document, considering that the GeNiE reactor has not been licensed for commercial use and is still in the experimental research stage, despite 20 years of efforts by multiple industry organizations.

“From my initial review, it doesn’t look like it’s a firm contract. It was essentially memorialization of a desire of the Commonwealth government to avail of that technology but there are conditions precedent to entering into that contract like securing financing and studies, approval of the technology which has yet to be approved, and so forth. It’s long ways from being a contract that can be executed in terms of the provisions but it is interesting that we have that,” Inos said.

House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (IR-Saipan) also said in his view the document “does not bind the CNMI to anything.”

The Inos administration has expressed no interest in a nuclear power project and has instead issued orders to conduct a study on the integration of alternative or renewable energy into the existing Commonwealth Utilities Corp. power grid.  Governor Inos is going to send the document to the Office of the Attorney General to ensure that there is not any liability or obligation to fulfill under the document that the former governor and former AG signed.

Source: Saipan Tribune

Source: Marianas Variety

Source: Saipan Tribune

Source: Global Energy Corporation

Source: Pacific Islands Report

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