An engineer was arrested Friday on charges that he sent off blueprints for critical nuclear-plant parts knowing they might be headed for North Korea (search).

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan accused Sitaraman Ravi Mahadevan, 40, of Marlton, N.J., of shipping blueprints for valves to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Inc. in New York, knowing they might be sent to North Korea.

Mahadevan allegedly shipped six packages containing approximately 90 blueprints to Mitsubishi, one of the contractors responsible for constructing the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (search)'s nuclear plant in North Korea, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the export of the valves or their blueprints to any nuclear facility in North Korea without a valid government export license is prohibited.

Mahadevan, manager of the nuclear business unit at Valcor Engineering Corp. in Springfield, N.J., declined comment as he was released on $750,000 bail. His lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, also had no comment.

Jonathan Carson, a U.S. Department of Commerce (search) agent, said in court papers that the valves are used to regulate pressure inside a nuclear vessel.

The rule barring shipment has been in effect since December 2002, when North Korea expelled International Atomic Energy Agency (search) inspectors from its nuclear plants.

According to the complaint, Mahadevan last year had applied for and been denied a license to export similar valves and associated documents worth $3.2 million to India.

In its rejection, the Commerce Department told him the United States does not permit direct or indirect assistance to nuclear activities in countries that do not provide full scope safeguards or have not ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Carson said.

Prosecutors said on Oct. 17, Mahadevan shipped the blueprints to Mitsubishi without obtaining an export license even though he knew they could end up in North Korea.

An investigation by the Commerce Department, which issues export licenses, led to the seizure of the blueprints while they were en route from Valcor to Mitsubishi.

If convicted, Mahadevan faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.