Plans for a multibillion-pound British nuclear power project in Cumbria could be at risk of falling apart as Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, which owns a majority stake in the group tasked with developing the project, struggles with mounting financial woes.
It had been hoped that the £10bn Moorside Nuclear Power Station, located near Sellafield, would bring more than 20,000 jobs to the region.
But Toshiba on Tuesday said that it was on track to report a net loss of 390bn yen ($3.4 bn, £2.71 bn) in the current fiscal year to March, prompting Chairman Shigenori Shiga to step down and leaving the future of the power station in down.
The Japanese conglomerate owns a 60 per cent stake in NuGen, the company which has the contract to build the Moorside plant. Unions on Tuesday called for urgent clarity from the Government on the project.
Chris Jukes, a regional political officer for the GMB trade union, said that West Cumbria “needs” the regeneration that would stem from new plant.
“In terms of Moorside, this potential new build is part of a broader and home-grown energy mix, built, maintained and operated by 20,000 British workers,” he said.
Mr Jukes said new infrastructure, better railways, demand for housing, health and school places, would all follow a brand new power plant.
“All of these can fuel employment and keep skills in the area. Uncertainty over the Toshiba deal shows exactly why foreign investors shouldn't be left to keep Britain's lights on,” he added.
Kevin Coyne, an officer for trade union Unite, said Toshiba's announcement “is potentially a deeply troubling development and points to the need for the Government to take a more strategic approach in bringing new nuclear power stations on stream”.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said the Government's energy policy was in “chaos”.
“We have become increasingly reliant on the decisions of foreign companies whose interests lie with their owners and not British consumers,” she said.
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Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association, said: “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. This is a vital part of our country's energy future.”
NuGen said on Tuesday that it “remains committed” to the multi-billion-pound project. and that it has made “significant progress since Toshiba took over as major shareholder in 2014”.
“The UK Government is committed to new nuclear as an important part of our energy mix,” Business and Energy Secreatery Greg Clark said.
Toshiba itself has been more ambiguous.
Last month, Satoshi Tsunakawa, chief executive of Toshiba confirmed it is reviewing its involvement in overseas project: “Going forward, we will revise the positioning of the nuclear business as our main focus business in the energy sector, and review the future of nuclear businesses outside Japan.”