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Toshiba exits Moorside nuclear project
Britain’s plan to build a series of new nuclear power plants to offset the planned closure of ageing existing plants were dealt a serious blow last month as developer Toshiba announced that it is to wind up its UK nuclear arm NuGeneration and quit the project to build a 3.3 GW plant at Moorside, Cumbria.
Toshiba said it had tried to find a buyer for NuGen, but had failed. The company says it has already spent more than €450mn on the project, which was to build three Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power units. The business is to be wound up starting in the new year.
The likely end of the Moorside project leaves Hinkley Point C as the only one of this new generation of nuclear power plants to have reached lift-off so far – the 3.3 GW plant is currently being built in Somerset. Plans to develop further plants at Sizewell in Suffolk; Wylfa Newydd in Anglesey, Wales; and Oldbury in Gloucestershire are at early development stages.
NuGeneration’s CEO Tom Samson blamed the demise of the scheme partly on uncertainties around possible new models of government support: ‘[The process] was further complicated by the emergence of a potential new policy framework from the UK government to finance nuclear new build, the Regulated Asset Base [RAB] in the midst of that sale process.’
Samson added: ‘Ultimately the RAB model is the right answer for sustaining a nuclear new build programme, the RAB will address the immense financial risks that nuclear developers are asked to take and in securing an enduring policy framework. The government – through the imposition of the RAB – will enable the UK sector for the long term. Sadly this will not come in time for NuGen.’
Reaction to the news was mixed, though few commentators were surprised, given the difficulty developers have found in financing the proposed new plants. Others saw an opportunity for the UK to concentrate on further renewables development instead.
Several trade unions expressed their disappointment at the decision by Toshiba. Prospect, which calls itself the largest UK union representing professional engineers, called the news devastating for Cumbria and for the wider energy sector.
Senior Deputy General Secretary Sue Ferns said: ‘Government has ultimate responsibility for ensuring a secure and stable supply of energy throughout the UK. The truth is that ministers have dithered and delayed for far too long.’
Ferns added: ‘We have a huge skills base in this country which is at risk if we don’t get some certainty. For the sake of jobs, skills, growth and security of supply it is vital that the government now gets a grip on the future of this industry.’
Prospect had previously published a report: , setting out the case for nuclear new build in the UK and suggesting that there would be a potential energy gap if the construction of new nuclear power stations was delayed.