Troubled Toshiba still ‘committed’ to UK nuclear project

Toshiba remains committed to a UK nuclear power project despite its plan to exit the nuclear plant construction business after posting a $6.3bn loss.

So said NuGen, Toshiba’s majority-stake joint venture with France’s Engie, in a statement released yesterday. NuGen said Toshiba will continue to develop the 3.8 GW Moorside project (pictured, artist’s rendition), which will feature three of the firm’s Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.

Once completed, the à‚£10bn ($12.4bn) project is expected to provide around 7 per cent of the UK‘s power.

The reassurance comes on the heels of a difficult few days for the beleaguered Japanese firm, with chair Shigenori Shiga stepping down after announcing the loss stemming from Westinghouse, its US nuclear business. Project delays and cost overruns as well as overvaluation of CB & I Stone & Webster, a nuclear construction firm bought by Westinghouse in 2015, were blamed for the loss.

The shale gas revolution in the US, falling renewable power prices, the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster in Japan and countries’ subsequent phaseouts have all contributed to reduced demand for nuclear power since Toshiba’s 2006 purchase of Westinghouse.à‚ 

Toshiba now says it will scale back its involvement in nuclear projects outside Japan with the aim of avoiding construction risks, and will focus instead on equipment supply and engineering services.à‚ 

In addition to the Moorfield project, the company has said it will exit the construction side of its nuclear business in India, throwing into doubt Nuclear Power Corporation of India’s (NPCIL) 6.6 GW Kovvada project, which is set to feature six Westinghouse reactors. Toshiba is reportedly still planning to complete and deliver the reactors.

Leading UK sector representatives cautioned this week that the government must step in to support the Moorside project given Toshiba’s troubles. à‚ 

Tom Greatrex, the head of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, said: “We welcome Toshiba’s continued commitment to the Moorside project. With more than two thirds of our power generation capacity retiring between 2010 and 2030, we urgently need to ensure we have a secure, reliable, always available way of providing electricity to homes, businesses and public services for our future needs, and to do that in as low-carbon a way as possible.”

And the GMB trade union called for Prime Minister Theresa May to “make cast iron guarantees to protect” the Moorside project by pledging government funding.

Justin Bowden, GMB’s national secretary for energy, said: “Toshiba’s chairman falling on his sword underlines the gravity of the company’s situation but must not be allowed to jeopardize the future of Moorside and put the security of this country’s energy supply in any more of a precarious situation than it already is.”

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