Plans for a new Cumbrian nuclear power station dealt potentially fatal blow

UK proposals to develop a new nuclear power station in Cumbria are in serious doubt as the engineering giant Toshiba confirm it is pulling out of the £15bn project.

The Japanese firm has been attempting to sell the NuGeneration consortium behind the planned Moorside plant in West Cumbria but has failed to find a buyer with today marking a major blow for the UK government which has big ambitions to develop nuclear power. The plant was expected to deliver 7% of the UK’s electricity needs from 2025.

The announcement comes after 18 months of negotiations with prospective buyers. Korea Electric Power Corporation had been earmarked as the preferred bidder to takeover but no deal has reached.  The firm say it will start the wind-up process in January.

However, Toshiba say the Moorside site in Cumbria is now in the hands of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as the owner of the grounds, and as it remains a site a site designated by for nuclear new-build, it is up to the government to “determine its future”.

A statement from Toshiba said: “Unfortunately, it has not been possible to successfully conclude those negotiations. NuGen has retained a team to support the implementation of a winding-up process and will work with Toshiba and its other stakeholders. After considering the additional costs entailed in continuing to operate NuGen, Toshiba recognises that the economically rational decision is to withdraw from the UK nuclear power plant construction project, and has resolved to take steps to wind-up NuGen.”

The scheme had been projected to create between 14,000-21,000 jobs over the lifetime of the project – including peak on-site employment of more than 6,500.

Unions have attacked the government for not intervening earlier to save the plant with the fate of the nuclear power station being cast into doubt in July when a large majority of staff in Cumbria were laid off.

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: “A golden opportunity exists to take control and develop a small modular nuclear reactor in a part of this country which has a groundbreaking nuclear past that can be repeated in the future. The lessons from the collapse of Toshiba should have been well and truly learned long ago – relying on foreign companies and countries for our essential energy needs is utterly irresponsible.”

The director of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (North West) Guy Lawson has now urged for swift action by ministers and called on the government to work with industry to consider how the Moorside project can continue. 

“The decision to wind up NuGen is a potential hammer blow to the nuclear sector in Cumbria, and the local economy,” he said. “The area is home to the UK’s greatest concentration of companies and workers with genuinely world-leading capability in nuclear delivery and operation. It is essential that this competitive advantage and the nuclear skills base are maintained, through sustained investment in nuclear new build, harnessing this capability and delivering low carbon energy to power the UK economy. CECA has long campaigned for new nuclear as a vital component of the mixed portfolio of electricity generation the UK will need as we transition towards a low-carbon economy.”

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