The decision by nuclear power developer NuGen to postpone development plans for the Moorside power project has had a knock-on effect on substantial grid investment for northwest England.

Following severe financial troubles afflicting lead project developer Toshiba Group, NuGen has decided to pause and conduct a strategic review, leaving National Grid with no option but to at least temporarily shelve the £2.8bn ($3.6bn) grid investment it had been set to develop in support.

On Tuesday the grid operator announced stalling its application for planning permission for grid lines in the area.
Tom Samson of NuGen
“We have decided to … take the time to understand NuGen’s programme to make sure our projects are aligned,” National Grid said. “It is important that we make sure the consents run broadly in parallel, so the planning inspectorate can examine the planning application for our connection knowing there is a strong need for it.”

Tom Samson, NuGen chief executive, said on Tuesday that a “universe of options” were being explored to salvage the UK project. Talks have been held with Kepco, the South Korean utility, about backing Moorside but this might involve the replacement of Westinghouse reactors with Korean technology — setting back the project by years as new planning and regulatory consent would be needed.

Mr Samson said he remained “110 per cent sure” Moorside would go ahead. The project is one of the most advanced of several new nuclear power stations planned around the UK to help maintain energy security as coal is phased out and old reactors are decommissioned in coming decades.

Engie, which was backing the reactor with Toshiba, exited the joint venture last month following multi-billion pound losses from the Japanese firm’s US nuclear unit raised questions over whether it could deliver on its UK commitments.

NuGen’s Moorside project aims to develop a new generation nuclear power station of up to 3.8 GW gross capacity.