Mycle Schneider, who has advised other European states on nuclear, says government could not offer right level of capital support

The UK government’s nuclear new build ambitions have been branded “pie in the sky” by an international energy expert, as Toshiba announced this week that it will not take a construction role on its proposed £106bn Moorside plant in Cumbria.

According to reports this week, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is pushing the Treasury to help with building the costly nuclear power plants by taking stakes in the projects.

Taking minority stakes, worth up to 30%, would mean the construction cost of the power stations would not show up on the government’s balance sheet.

But Mycle Schneider, who has advised a number of European governments on nuclear issues, said the cash-strapped UK government would not be able to offer the level of capital support required to deliver the planned fleet of new atomic power plants. Hinkley alone has an estimated construction cost of £18bn.

He said: “It’s very clear that the public subsidy would be very limited. We are talking about very large sums of money. This is pie in the sky. If the government comes up with a few billion pounds, it will not be enough to fill the gap.”

Schneider said the government should put its efforts instead into encouraging renewable energy, which is delivering increasing levels of generation capacity.

His comments follow Toshiba’s announcement on Tuesday that it has delayed the publication of its quarterly earnings report. Toshiba said it still plans to be involved in Moorside without “carrying out actual construction work”.

The company has admitted that it will have to write off losses of $6bn resulting from mammoth cost over-runs on two atomic plants in the US being built by its nuclear construction arm Westinghouse. The troubled plants use the same AP1000 model reactors that Toshiba plans to use at Moorside. It has a 60% stake in the scheme.