Developer NuGen expects to find investor to replace Engie by early 2018

The proposed Moorside nuclear plant in Cumbria will not begin operating until at least the late 2020s, the chief executive of developer NuGen has revealed.

The future of the huge 3.4GW project was thrown into doubt earlier this year when Toshiba’s nuclear arm Westinghouse, which was due to supply the reactors for the power station, filed for bankruptcy protection in the US.

Toshiba was then left as the sole shareholder in NuGen after junior partner Engie jumped ship in April, exercising a “contractual right” to force to Toshiba to purchase its 40 per cent stake.

Since then the Japanese tech giant has been hunting for new investors to take Engie’s place.

In June, Korea Electric Electric Power Corporation (CGN) confirmed it was in talks with Toshiba about taking a stake in the project, while last month China General Nuclear Power Corporation, which own a 33.5 per cent interest in Hinkley Point C, said it was also considering a bid.

In an interview with Reuters this week, NuGen chief executive Tom Samson said the project will not be completed in 2025 as previously planned.

“There are multiple credible bidders and we expect to find a new buyer, and a clear way forward by early next year,” Samson told the news agency.

He continued: “Clearly there will be a shift in the start date from 2025 to later in the 2020s, but the plant could still be up and running before 2030.”

Samson said the timetable for delivery will be determined by any new shareholder. Korea’s main electricity utility Kepco has declared it will not invest in the project unless it can use its own reactor design and CGN is likely to feel the same way.

Before they can be deployed in the UK, the reactors will need to undergo a generic design assessment which typically takes around four years to complete. Whilst CGN started the process earlier this year, Kepco has yet to begin. Westinghouse’s reactor design was given the green light by regulators in March.

“We are not ruling out any technology at this stage,” Samson told Reuters.

He said NuGen had petitioned the government for support: “We are exploring options for the government to participate in the project but it is just a dialogue at the moment and no policy decisions have been made.”

GMB senior organiser Chris Jukes said the delay is “far from a surprise”.

“We welcome the honesty from NuGen and ask why the Government is so silent and failing to show leadership on Moorside,” he said.

“Britain needs this vital new infrastructure, and the reliable zero carbon electricity it will produce, and it is the government’s responsibility to make sure it is built and in a timely manner.”

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