Toshiba has pulled the plug on its plans to build a new nuclear plant in Cumbria, resulting in the loss of 30 jobs.
The Japanese multinational announced overnight UK time that it is liquidating its UK nuclear new build arm NuGen.
The decision followed the company’s failure to find a buyer for NuGen which was set up to deliver a 3GW nuclear power station at Moorside. The plant was designed to supply approximately 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.
Negotiations with South Korean utility Kepco, which was identified as Toshiba’s preferred bidder for NuGen last December, stalled during the summer.
Toshiba, which decided to exit NuGen after disposing of its US nuclear business Westinghouse in early 2017, said it had no confidence that the Moorside development arm could be sold before the end of its current financial year next March.
In a statement issued last night, the company said once the additional costs of continuing to operate NuGen were taken into account that winding up NuGen is the “economically rational” decision.
A NuGen spokesperson told Utility Week that 30 staff still working at the Moorside site, which is located immediately to the north of the decommissioned nuclear plant at Sellafield, would be redundant.
Former energy and climate change select committee chair Tim Yeo slammed the government for dithering over its new nuclear programme.
Yeo, who is chair of the New Nuclear Watch Institute, said: “This is a huge disappointment and a crushing blow to hopes of a revival of the UK nuclear energy industry.
“Although the government has been in talks with Kepco over the NuGen project for more than a year it has still not decided what financial package will be offered to enable construction of new nuclear reactors to take place at Moorside.
“It is hardly surprising that Toshiba has finally lost patience and pulled the plug.”
He said that the government had sent out mixed messages to investors by not extending its potential offer of an equity stake, which it is looking into for Hitachi’s Wylfa plant in north Wales, to Moorside.
Yeo said: “Not surprisingly foreign investors are now getting confused.
“This dithering is also jeopardising the chance to secure Korean investment into Britain just when it is most needed and deals a blow to job prospects in the northwest.”
Justin Bowden, national secretary of the GMB union, called for the government to take the lead on Moorside by getting the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency to bring forward a small modular reactor on the site.
“The British government has blood on its hands as the final sad but predictable nail is banged into the coffin of Toshiba’s jinxed jaunt into nuclear power.
“Relying in this way on foreign companies for our country’s essential energy needs was always irresponsible.
Bowden was backed up by Ritchie James, regional secretary for the North West at the Unite union.
He said: “It is our view that it is not too late to revive this project, but it needs the active engagement of government, including the commitment of public money.
“The hands-off attitude of the government has been the elephant in the room and today this ‘one step removed’ approach has come home to roost. This is another example of the government’s chaotic attitude to policy making.
He said Unite will be seeking an urgent meeting with Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy secretary of state Greg Clark about the future of the Moorside, which is designated by the government as the location for a new nuclear plant.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Toshiba’s announcement today to wind up NuGen – the nuclear power plant construction project in Cumbria – is sad news for all those involved in the project and for the nuclear sector.”
But Dr Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said that the demise of plans for Moorside are an opportunity to shift away from “expensive, complicated” nuclear technology towards “cheaper and easier to build” renewables alternatives.
He said: “UK offshore wind is already significantly cheaper than nuclear, with onshore and solar power offering even greater savings. The technology needed to shore up supply from variable sources is also getting more competitive, with storage one of the brightest lights.
“Cancelling Moorside does leave a gap in the UK’s decarbonisation plans, but one that is more likely to be filled with the technologies of the future rather than the past.”