Troubled nuclear power scheme Moorside faced fresh uncertainty after French company Engie announced its withdrawal from NuGen, the joint venture behind the project.
The 3.8GW Moorside nuclear power plant, in Cumbria, is set to cost roughly £15bn and house three reactors, providing 7% of the UK’s energy. A planning application had been due early this year but was pushed back in December 2016, and a new date has not been set.
Engie is forcing partner Toshiba to buy its 40% stake in NuGen, citing “significant challenges” facing the JV as the reason for pulling out. Moorside’s reactor designer Westinghouse, owned by Toshiba, filed for US bankruptcy protection last week, although Toshiba stressed its European operations would not be affected.
As a result Engie is using its contractual right to force Toshiba to buy its £111.2m stake in NuGen, bringing Toshiba’s ownership to 100%. The Japanese firm will now look for other investors for NuGen, or sell off the UK-based nuclear energy company.
“NuGen’s board is now fully focused on concluding this shareholding transfer from Engie to Toshiba to enable NuGen’s Moorside Project to drive forward,” said a spokesperson for NuGen.
“NuGen has been working tirelessly to bring-in additional investment to support the Moorside project as it works towards helping to deliver a low-carbon future for the UK.”
Korean utility company Kepco is reportedly in the running to invest in Moorside. Business secretary Greg Clark is currently on a trip to South Korea to discuss collaboration between the two countries on civil nuclear projects.
“The UK Government is committed to new nuclear as an important part of our energy mix, having commissioned the first new nuclear power plant in a generation at Hinkley Point C,” said a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.