News that Toshiba Corp. in Japan was backing out of the Moorside nuclear power plant construction project in Cumbria, UK, sparked reactions in Britain and South Korea this week, indicating the project was not dead in the water, despite the major set back.
Toshiba confirmed the news on Thursday, indicating it could not complete the sale of NuGen by the end of the fiscal year (which ends March 31, 2019), leaving it no choice but to close down the entity that already hit a speed bump when Westinghouse Electric declared bankruptcy in March 2017.
Toshiba set up NuGen to oversee the project in partnership with Engie of France. But Engie retreated after the Westinghouse went into bankruptcy and could no longer support the project that called for construction of AP1000 Westionghouse-designed reactors.
The goal was to construct a 3.8 GWe capacity nuclear plant in Moorside, Cumbria using the AP1000 design that completed a regulatory review in Britain also in March 2011, according to Nuclear Engineering International.
Toshiba has lost millions of dollars per year in NuGen and its closing will tag Toshiba with an additional $132 million loss on the year, according to media reports. NuGen in September had already said it would scale down its workforce from about 100 workers to 40 who would walk NuGen to the finish line.
Two major trade unions in Britain, Unite and GMB, quickly called for government intervention to help save the project that would supply thousands of construction jobs for the area. A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS) said, “we understand that Toshiba have faced a difficult decision in ending their involvement in new nuclear projects outside Japan in light of their well-known financial challenges.”
Along with the Westinghouse bankruptcy, Toshiba was rocked by an accounting scandal in recent years that undermined its value on the stock market. The Japanese conglomerate is not in bankruptcy, but is restructuring many of its businesses in the wake of the scandal.
The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, meanwhile, said this week it would continue to negotiate with the British government to find a role in the Moorside project. Toshiba, in July 2017, had called the Korea Electric Power Company the preferred bidder for the construction project, but talks on the collaboration fizzled, leaving that relationship in doubt.
Toshiba said it would continue to talk with companies, including Kepco, concerning the sale of NuGen.
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