MP calls for Government to step into save troubled nuclear project

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12 April 2017 8:36AM

A Cumbrian MP has called for the Government to take a stake in the county's proposed nuclear project - after Toshiba expressed "serious doubts" about the company's future.

John Stevenson, the Conservative member for Carlisle, spoke out after Toshiba - which has a 60 per cent stake in NuGen - announced it had lost billions of pounds last year.

Nugen is behind plans for a new nuclear plant at Moorside, near Sellafield. It is one of the biggest developments ever planned for Cumbria, and is set to bring in thousands of jobs and provide a major boost to the county's economy.

Toshiba last week announced it will soon take full control of NuGen, after French firm ENGIE announced it would sell its 40 per cent stake.

The Japanese giant yesterday announced its twice-delayed results for the period of April to December last year, showing it had made a net loss of 532bn yen (£3.8bn).

A statement to investors said: "There are material events and conditions that raise the substantial doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern."

A different statement to investors said the company was taking measures to tackle its financial problems, adding: "Toshiba is sure it will be able to secure a sufficient financial base."

While neither mentioned the Cumbrian project, this news is sure to reignite doubts about its commitment.

 John Stevenson

John Stevenson

Mr Stevenson said: "I would encourage the Government to take a stake in NuGen. I think that would demonstrate to investors that the British Government have confidence in the project."

He emphasised that this should not be a controlling stake.

Mr Stevenson also said he was "constantly bringing up the issue with ministers" and may raise it at this week's session of Prime Minister's questions.

Up to 6,000 people would be working on the Moorside site at any one time. In total, 21,000 jobs are expected to be created in total by the Moorside development.

Toshiba's woes stem from part of its nuclear operations.

In January the company announced its US subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, which was originally part of BNFL, may have overpaid - by several billion dollars - for another nuclear construction and services business.

Last month Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA.

This has resulted in a loss of 759.8bn yen (£5.5bn) in this part of Toshiba's business, which profits elsewhere did not mitigate.

Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, said: "Through the (by-election) campaign my priority was delivering Moorside with or without Toshiba, and that remains the same.

"Tom Samson (NuGen's chief executive) remains committed to delivering three new reactors at Moorside and we will be working to achieve that."

Ivan Baldwin is business development director for owners Carr’s Engineering, which owns Bendalls Engineering in Kingstown, Carlisle.

The company supplies the nuclear industry, and Mr Baldwin admitted any news affecting new UK nuclear power plants was "troubling".

However, he added: "As a business it will not impact on our work directly."

Mr Baldwin said any orders for Moorside would not be on the books for five to 10 years.

Unite national officer for energy Kevin Coyne said it was essential for the Government to intervene.

“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 in Cumbria," 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."

Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) have expressed an interest in buying Toshiba's stake in NuGen and meetings between the two organisations are set to take place though no timescale on this has been given.

A NuGen spokesman said: “NuGen is working with its shareholders to conclude the shareholding transfer from ENGIE to Toshiba, which will become the 100 per cent shareholder of NuGen in due course.

"It continues to work towards bringing in additional investment to the Moorside Project.”

He added that the firm would not comment on matters specifically related to Toshiba's finances.

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Tim   Knowles , Frizington Wednesday, 12 April, 2017 at 9:30PM
It is absolutely critical that ministers take action to ensure that Moorside goes ahead. Trudy Harrison and John Stevenson must demand action from their ministers, hand wringing is not enough.
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Gillian   Hudson , Holmrook Wednesday, 12 April, 2017 at 9:21AM
It would be a much sounder idea for the project to be abandoned now, before it's too late and any more damage is done to our environment or our economy.
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Orange   Peel , Flimby Wednesday, 12 April, 2017 at 8:37AM
Why should the government step in to sort out the privately run energy system? Wasn't that the reason that Maggie and her cohorts privatised the Electricity industry in the first place? i.e. to ensure that the most efficient financing and energy supplies for industry and domestic users.
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