Chinese investment may save UK’s Moorside nuclear scheme

China’s drive to be a player in the UK’s new generation nuclear power stations may save Toshiba’s troubled Moorside scheme – if the UK government is willing to allow it.

A $19.5bn power station in Cumbria, Moorside was to have been built by the NuGen consortium led by Toshiba with backing from French utility multinational, Engie.

However, Engie pulled out last month, leaving Toshiba to search for alternative investors while it dealt with losses at Westinghouse, its US nuclear subsidiary, which filed for bankruptcy in March following billions of dollars in cost overruns at two nuclear power plants it designed and is building in the states of Georgia and South Carolina.

UK newspaper The Sunday Times reported that China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) is considering buying a stake in NuGen.

Industry sources said a delegation from SNPTC and its parent company State Power Investment Corporation were due to meet with executives from NuGen and the UK Nuclear Industry Association yesterday to discuss options for taking a stake in the scheme.

A potential hurdle to SNPTC taking a stake is UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s reluctance to allow foreign companies to take over the UK’s vital infrastructure.

Another Chinese state-owned nuclear power company, China General Nuclear, already owns a one-third stake in the $23bn Hinkley Point C nuclear station in Somerset, and is also planning to build a power station at Bradwell in Essex.

May temporarily suspended the Hinckley C deal at the last moment over this issue, although in the event it was allowed, as long as the government could take a "golden share" to prevent a sell-off to which it objected.

It had been thought that the most likely replacement investor in Moorside was Korea Electric Power, which had previously expressed an interest.

Image: Render of the planned new nuclear power station at Moorside, Cumbria (NuGen)

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