GMB calls for clarity over new Cumbria nuclear power plan as investors pull back

CGI of proposed NuGen nuclear power plant at Moorside.
CGI of proposed NuGen nuclear power plant at Moorside.

GMB, the union for nuclear energy workers, has voiced ‘huge concern’ as a major investor walked away from the Moorside nuclear reactor project in Cumbria.

NuGen, supported by its parent companies, Toshiba and Engie (formerly GDF SUEZ) is currently working on detailed plans for developing the 3.8GW plant.

But French firm Engie, backing the £10 billion build with Toshiba, pulled the plug on the deal yesterday.

The Moorside project had already been thrown into turmoil when Toshiba announced multi-billion dollar losses, causing chairman Shigenori Shiga to step down. Then last week Toshiba’s US arm Westinghouse, which is producing reactors for Moorside, went bankrupt.

The Moorside power station is set to be built in Cumbria and deliver seven per cent of the UK’s electricity from 2025.

Chris Jukes, GMB senior organiser, said: “We need urgent clarity from the Government, clarity from NuGen [the company behind the project] and some firm announcements about the plant’s future.

“In post-Brexit Britain, we have the perfect opportunity to provide our own energy supply.

“But we have one French company exiting the project and one in the Far East having financial problems.

“It makes you wonder if this project is going to go ahead. But it has to as there’s too much at stake.”

Toshiba has been forced to buy out French utility Engie from the project to build three nuclear reactors in Moorside, adding to uncertainty over the project.

Engie said on Tuesday it was exercising its right to sell its 40 percent stake in the NuGen venture to Toshiba following the bankruptcy of the Japanese firm’s Westinghouse unit. Toshiba will pay £111 million for the stake.

Toshiba is now the sole owner of NuGen, but has said it is looking for more investors to join the $15-20 billion project or to sell out altogether.

Britain needs to invest in new infrastructure to replace ageing coal and nuclear plants set to close in the 2020s, but has struggled to get large projects built, especially nuclear, due to the costs involved.

EDF’s £18 billion pound Hinkley Point C nuclear project in southwest England got the final go-ahead in 2016 after several years of delay, but only after securing backing from the French government.

The British government has been working to attract new investors to NuGen, and some analysts said Engie’s departure might make it easier for Toshiba to sell NuGen as a whole.

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