Union calls on gov’t to underwrite proposed Moorside facility Cumbria

Turmoil over the finances of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba have prompted new fears for the future of the proposed Moorside nuclear power plant in Cumbria, for which the firm is the principal backer.

Toshiba announced a £3.8bn operating loss for the first three quarters of the last financial year, driven by issues with its overseas nuclear operations.

The firm took the unusual step of publishing the results - which had already been delayed twice - without the approval of the firm’s auditors. It admitted there was “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

Last month its Westinghouse Electric Company subsidiary filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States, primarily because of problems stemming from two projects with its AP1000 reactors in Georgia and South Carolina.

The request for so-called Chapter 11 protection included Toshiba Nuclear Energy Holdings (UK), principal shareholder of NuGeneration Ltd, which is developing the £10bn Moorside facility, currently set to house three AP1000 reactors.

The bankruptcy move triggered a clause allowing NuGen partner Engie to demand Toshiba purchase its 40% stake in the venture, which the company estimates will cost £111.8m. Toshiba is now looking “to sell off its holding” in NuGen.

Kevin Coyne, national energy officer at the Unite union, called on the government to step in and guarantee the future of Moorside and the 20,000 jobs it is expected to create.

“The latest news about the very poor financial health of Toshiba raises further concerns about its involvement in the construction of the Moorside nuclear power station,” he said.

“Unite renews its call to the business secretary Greg Clark to step in and pledge public investment to ensure that the project goes ahead on schedule, as Toshiba is in deep financial trouble and has a big question mark over its future.”

NuGen declined to comment on Toshiba’s finances, but said it was working with the firm to conclude the transfer of Engie’s shares to the firm, adding that it was continuing “to work towards bringing in additional investment to the Moorside project”.