Speculation over future of new UK nuclear plant

Prime Minister Theresa May has given her backing to plans to build a nuclear power station In Cumbria, despite majority shareholder Toshiba launching a review into the future of its nuclear business outside Japan.

In a speech at Copeland in Cumbria, May reiterated the UK Government’s commitment to nuclear power.

Her comments came as a new report warned that the Government’s plans to leave the Euratom treaty threatens the UK’s nuclear new build programme. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers report said quitting the treaty could put fuel supplies at risk and jeopardise energy security.

Shigenori Shiga, Toshiba’s Chairman, resigned after the company warned it was on course to make multi-billion pound losses, many linked to its nuclear business in the United States.

Toshiba owns a 60% stake in Nugen, the company behind plans to build a 3.8GW nuclear power station at Moorside in Cumbria.

Industry support

Nugen, in which French power firm Engie holds the remaining stake, said it remained committed to Moorside and welcomed May’s comments.
“NuGen remains committed to developing and delivering the next generation of nuclear power in the UK,” said Tom Samson, NuGen’s Chief Executive.

“The strong support of the UK Government strengthens our investment case for safe, reliable, affordable, low-carbon energy using proven technology.”

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association and a former Labour Shadow Energy Minister, added: “As both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have made clear over recent weeks, building new nuclear capacity in west Cumbria is an integral part of the UK being able to replace old power stations, keeping a balanced mix as carbon emissions are reduced.”

Union anger

But trade unions accused May of “crossing her fingers and toes” and “hoping the lights stay on” instead of offering UK Government funds to underwrite the project.

Chris Jukes, GMB Senior Officer for Sellafield and Cumbria, said: “Theresa May has ducked the central question, just when strong leadership was required.

“Theresa May and Greg Clark just crossing their fingers and toes will not guarantee the lights stay on if there is a further wobble with Toshiba.”

> Read NuGen's statement