Two of the country’s biggest unions have urged the government to take a stake in the Moorside nuclear power plant as its backer NuGen has announced that it is reviewing the troubled project.
Toshiba identified South Korean utility Kepco in December as preferred bidder to take over its involvement in the project to build a 3GW station near the former site of the world’s first civil nuclear plant at Sellafield in Cumbria.
Toshiba decided to exit the nuclear business after its subsidiary Westinghouse was hit by massive losses due to cost over-runs on new build atomic projects in the USA. French-owned Engie had already withdrawn from Moorside.
However, the negotiations are understood to be stalled, prompting NuGen’s review that places the jobs of its approximately 100 staff at risk.
NuGen told staff last week that it was undertaking a four-week consultation into whether to cease operations or run them on a scaled-down basis while another buyer is pursued.
A spokesman for NuGen, said: “Toshiba has pursued a sale of NuGen to Kepco and the prolonged time it has taken to reach a conclusion has required NuGen to undertake a review.
“As such additional options are being pursued for NuGen’s future direction to deliver the next generation of nuclear new build in the UK. It has been decided by the NuGen board to re-profile the organisation at this point in order to pursue alternatives.”
The GMB union called for the government to take a stake in the financing of the Moorside project, which is due to generate 7 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.
The government has already indicated that it will provide support for Hitachi’s project at Wylfa in order to provide the Japanese company with greater confidence.
Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: “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 sheer folly.
“As well as eradicating the uncertainty, by the government taking a stake and taking control at Moorside, the price to consumers will be greatly reduced making good all round sense, not just the obvious benefits to bill payers but because the government is ‘the lender of last resort’ when it comes to guaranteeing the country’s energy supply and so direct public funding of the construction does away with the nonsensical pretence that this is some other country or company’s responsibility.”
The Unite union has said that it is seeking an urgent meeting with business and energy secretary Greg Clark to flesh out details of the government’s plans for Moorside and whether it will commit any public money to the project.