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Toshiba withdraws from planned UK nuclear plant

TOSHIBA has announced that it will withdraw from a construction project that had planned to build a new nuclear power plant at the Moorside site in Cumbria.

Toshiba said that it was winding up NuGen, its UK nuclear business, due to its inability to find a buyer. The company had been in negotiations to sell NuGen for 18 months, including talks with the South Korean firm Kepco, but the talks weren’t successful.

It has already spent more than £40m on the project and would take a £125m (US$163.7m) hit by dissolving the UK business. “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,” Toshiba said in a statement.

Moorside was expected to provide 7% of UK power demand and the decision has dealt a blow to the government’s plans to build a fleet of new large-scale nuclear power plants. The only new plant to be approved is Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which started construction in 2016 and is due to be completed in the mid-2020s. Talks are also underway for the construction of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant in Wales.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “The Moorside site in Cumbria remains a site designated by the government for nuclear new build and has huge local support. It is therefore vital the government facilitates the build of new nuclear on the site for the sake of the energy security of the UK and for the local economy in Cumbria.”

Justin Bowden, national secretary of the GMB union, said: “Relying in this way on foreign companies for our country’s essential energy needs was always irresponsible. Add to that the multiple opportunities to step in and take control, that were missed or ignored. A new nuclear power station in West Cumbria remains vital for the UK’s future energy security and requires urgent action.”

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, welcomed the decision. "The end of the Moorside plan represents a failure of the government's nuclear gamble. Their flawed approach to making our economy low carbon has dashed the hopes of prospective workers and businesses in Cumbria that should have been centred around renewable technologies."

Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said: "The demise of plans for a new power station at Moorside should be seen as an opportunity, rather than a risk. Shifting away from expensive, complicated technology towards cheaper and easier to build renewables gives the UK the opportunity to build an electricity system that will keep bills for homes and businesses down for years to come. UK offshore wind is already significantly cheaper than nuclear, with onshore and solar power offering even greater savings.”

Winding up of the Moorside site will begin by 31 January and will be completed by the end of March when the site will be handed over to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.