Toshiba puts £10bn Cumbria nuclear plant in doubt

The future of the UK’s new £10 billion Moorside nuclear plant on the Cumbria coast has been put in doubt after Japan’s Toshiba Corp — which is developing the plant with France’s Engie — indicated it may not carry out construction work for the project.

Toshiba’s update on Moorside — Europe’s largest new nuclear power station project — came as its chairman resigned and it said it expects to book a $6.3 billion writedown in its nuclear power business amid cost overruns at a US division.

“Toshiba will consider participating in the (Moorside) project without taking on any risk from carrying out actual construction work,” said Toshiba in a presentation to investors.

It added: “As planned from the beginning, Toshiba will seek to sell the shares (in the Moorside project) to interested parties.”

The Moorside plant is being developed by NuGen, a joint venture between Toshiba and Engie, formerly called GDF Suez.

NuGen insisted that Toshiba “remains committed to developing NuGen’s Moorside Project.”

In a statement, NuGen said: “NuGen acknowledges the announcement that Toshiba’s review into the future of its nuclear power business outside Japan is complete and that it remains committed to developing NuGen’s Moorside Project.

NuGen said Moorside was at the core of the UK’s plans for providing safe, sustainable low-carbon electricity for generations to come and would be a transformational opportunity for West Cumbria.

NuGen CEO Tom Samson said: “The project has made significant progress since Toshiba took over as major shareholder in 2014.

“The site has already been proven as suitable for three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, two phases of consultation have found the public overwhelmingly supportive of the need for new nuclear and have helped shape the plans for Moorside.

“The UK Government is supportive of NuGen, as a maturing and highly skilled nuclear organisation, and has remained firmly committed to new nuclear — stating that nuclear has a crucial role to play in securing our future energy needs, especially as we look to move to a low carbon society.”

NuGen said it would continue with its plans to develop Europe’s largest new nuclear power station, capable of generating up to 3.8GW of low-carbon electricity – equivalent to 7% of the UK’s electricity requirements.

Engie said it was still looking for partners willing to share the risk of investing in the Moorside project, Reuters reported.

UK business and energy minister Greg Clark said the UK government was committed to nuclear as an important part of Britain’s energy mix.

“The UK is one of the most attractive countries to invest in new nuclear and we continue to work closely with partners to see Moorside built,” he said.