South Korea shows interest after Toshiba scraps UK nuclear project
Japan’s Toshiba said on Thursday it would scrap a British nuclear plant project after failing to find an investment partner, but South Korea indicated it was still interested in building a reactor at the site.
The Moorside project in northwest England was expected to provide about 7% of Britain’s electricity, but faced setbacks after Toshiba’s nuclear arm Westinghouse went bankrupt last year.
It was part of Britain’s efforts to build a new fleet of nuclear reactors to replace ageing coal and other nuclear plants due to close in the 2020s. New projects have struggled due to high costs and weak electricity prices.
“Whilst NuGen will not be taking the project forward, the Moorside site in Cumbria remains a site designated by government for nuclear new build,” NuGen, the Toshiba business in Britain, said in a statement.
“It is now for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as the owner of the site and the government to determine its future.”
NuGen had been trying to sell its business for 18 months but it is now being liquidated.
South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp (Kepco) had been a preferred bidder but lost that status in July as delays to concluding a deal dragged on. However, South Korea’s energy ministry said it would talk with the British government.
“The ministry plans to closely co-ordinate with the British government on the Moorside project while monitoring the NuGen liquidation process with Kepco,” South Korea’s ministry of trade, industry and energy said in a statement.
Kepco had said it wanted to use its own nuclear reactor design for the project, which has not been submitted for approval from Britain’s nuclear regulator.
UK employment unions Unite and GMB called on the British government to step in to help save the Moorside project which NuGen said would create tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the local area.
The government said all proposed new nuclear projects in Britain are being led by private sector developers.
“While the government has engaged regularly with the companies involved, this is entirely a commercial decision for Toshiba,” a spokesperson for Britain’s department of business, energy and industrial strategy said.
Toshiba had also held talks about selling the project with Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management but they also fell through, a source told Reuters last month.
The UK government has come under fire for the costs of new nuclear plants, in particular Hinkley Point C in southwest England which is due to come online in 2025 and is being built by France’s EDF along with China General Nuclear Power.
It has said it would consider investing directly into the Wylfa Newydd plant in Wales to be built by Japan’s Hitachi in an attempt to keep the costs down.