In a not unexpected announcement by Toshiba today (8.11.18), the Japanese conglomerate has pulled the plug on its subsidiary NuGen, the consortium tasked with developing the £15Bn Moorside new-build project in West Cumbria.
In its press statement, Toshiba’s Board said “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 statement added that Toshiba said it expected to ‘take a hit’ of £100.5M from the withdrawal.
The project would originally have seen three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors built on the greenfield site adjacent to Sellafield. The bankruptcy of Westinghouse in 2017 and the departure of the last of the project’s original investors, led to an investment interest from South Korea’s state-owned KEPCO – providing it could build its own APR 1400 reactors on the proposed site. In 2018, with Toshiba stripping Kepco of its ‘preferred bidder’ status because of overly protracted discussions, the latest investment interest in Moorside – shown by Canadian company Brookfield Asset Management (who purchased the bankrupt Westinghouse from Toshiba August 2018 – appears now to have evaporated.
The proposed Moorside site was selected by Government on 5th April 2009 as one of eleven sites in the UK with ‘potential to host new build reactors’. The Government’s selection of the West Cumbrian site was seen by many to be little more than a fop to the concerns of the area’s influential pro-nuclear lobby which, with Sellafield’s commercial operations coming to an end, saw missing the new-build boat as leading to the decline of the industry’s 60-year domination of the area – and the area’s reciprocal dependence on the industry.
On the 28th October 2009 190 hectares of land was sold for £70M by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to a consortium comprised of Spain’s Iberdrola, France’s GDF Suez and UK’s SSE. A year later, NuGeneration (NuGen) was established as a joint venture with plans to develop up to 3.6GW of electricity at the site which, in December 2011, was officially named as Moorside.
The first consortium member to abandon the project was UK’s SSE in 2011. Two years later, following suggestions that the Government was about to re-auction the site due to frustration at the lack of progress in project development, Spain’s Iberdrola also abandoned ship having sold its stake to Toshiba/Westinghouse. With the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, the last original consortium member GDF Suez (re-named Engie) pulled out of the Moorside project under a get-out clause of the bankruptcy – leaving Toshiba as the sole shareholder of the NuGen project. All those to have abandoned the project have subsequently moved on to greener pastures in the renewables sector.
The original 190 hectare site, from which ‘the most suitable 100 ha would be selected for the nuclear power station’, had ballooned to 552 hectares of farmland by 2015. Ownership of the current site will now revert to the NDA