Doubts grow over delays, funding shortfalls and ability of nuclear industry to complete planned projects

Nuclear industry experts have warned that the £80bn nuclear new build industry is in “meltdown” as problems beset the clients behind the next generation of planned plants.

Despite French energy giant EDF pressing ahead with construction of £18bn Hinkley Point C - the first new UK nuclear plant for almost 30 years - after getting the all-clear from the government last autumn, experts warn the sector still faces major challenges.

In recent weeks Toshiba, the backer of the £10bn planned Moorside plant in Cumbria, has delayed its third quarter accounts twice and revealed a £6.3bn (£5.1bn) write-down on its US nuclear division, Westinghouse.

Meanwhile EDF has continued to face problems and delays on its Flamanville nuclear plant project in northern France - which uses the same reactor technology earmarked for Hinkley - including an explosion on site last month that injured three people, but posed no nuclear risk.

Nuclear lobbyist Tim Yeo, former Tory MP and climate change committee chair, told Building Toshiba’s financial problems had “cast doubt” on the future of the Moorside plant and posed “something of a crisis”.

He also queried EDF’s ability to complete Hinkley as planned by 2025, arguing that until Flamanville completes “there has to be a question mark over what the completion date of Hinkley will be”.

Meanwhile, Paul Dorfman, senior research fellow at UCL’s Energy Institute and long-time nuclear critic, said he believed the new nuclear programme was in “meltdown”. He also questioned whether EDF - which has debts of (E)37.4bn (£32.4bn) - would deliver at Hinkley: “It might happen, but it’s dependent upon a number of things, primarily EDF’s credit rating.”

However, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, defended the new build nuclear sector’s progress, arguing it was still in good shape: “We’re not in a fundamentally different place now than we were three months ago. “We’ve got one power station under construction and two more getting to the next stage in the regulatory process. The trajectory is right.”

Firms working on early contracts at Hinkley include contractors Laing O’Rourke, Bouygues and Costain and consultants Mace and Gleeds.

A spokesperson for Moorside developer NuGen, which is 60% owned by Toshiba, said: “NuGen’s shareholders are committed to the development of the Moorside project to build Europe’s largest new nuclear power station in West Cumbria.”