Review of Toshiba’s delayed British nuclear plant raises new doubts
London — Delays to the planned sale of Toshiba’s NuGen nuclear project in Britain have prompted a review of the roles of 60 direct employees, who are mainly based in Manchester, raising further doubts over its future.
The plant in Moorside, northwest England, was expected to provide about 7% of Britain’s electricity when built but has faced several setbacks after Toshiba’s nuclear arm, Westinghouse, went bankrupt in 2017.
Following the Westinghouse bankruptcy, NuGen joint venture partner Engie pulled out of the project, leaving the Japanese firm searching for investors.
Toshiba put NuGen up for sale and South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) was chosen as preferred bidder in 2017, but the process has stalled.
Britain needs to invest in new capacity to replace ageing coal and nuclear reactors that are due to close in the 2020s, but new plants have struggled to get off the ground due to high costs and weak electricity prices.
"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," a spokesman for NuGen said.
"As such additional options are being pursued for NuGen’s future direction to deliver the next generation of nuclear new build in the UK," he said.
NuGen has about 60 direct employees, mostly based in Manchester, while the roles of about 40 contractors would also be placed under a 30-day consultation period later this week, the spokesman said.
Britain has yet to announce any kind of deal for the project.
"We continue to engage with new build developers, though the detail of these discussions is commercially confidential," a spokeswoman for the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department said.
Another plant, to be built by a unit of Japan’s Hitachi, has also struggled to find funding, leading the British government to consider direct investment.
However, EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C will be the first new nuclear plant built in the country in more than 20 years after securing backing from the French government, investment from China General Nuclear Power Corporation and a power price guarantee from Britain.
The government has been criticised for being too generous in the terms it has set for this deal.