Toshiba 'committed' to Moorside but doubts remain

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 8:15AM

A KEY player in Cumbria's nuclear new build is still committed to the project - although the level of this remains in doubt.

Toshiba made this announcement today on a day of turmoil for the Japanese giant.

It has a 60 per cent stake in NuGen, the company which plans to build a power plant at Moorside, near Sellafield.

NuGen welcomed the company's committment to building a plant in Cumbria but Toshiba itself has been more ambiguous in its comments.

Last month Toshiba announced it was reexamining its involvement in all nuclear projects outside Japan, including Moorside.

Speculation grew that the company was set to announce a total withdrawl from the industry when it also announced its latest financial results.

This statement was scheduled for midday today in Japan - 3am UK time.

Instead though the company announced that the report needed for this "had not yet become available" and the results statement has been delayed until March 14.

After this the company said its chairman, Shigenori Shiga, was resigning to take responsibility for problems that will result in a forecast 713bn yen (£5bn) loss in its nuclear business. He will though remain an executive at the corporation.

Toshiba then held a press conference conference which included a presentation on all of the company's business areas, including Moorside.

A spokesman said: “Regarding the NuGen project, while Toshiba is committed to invest in the project until the final investment decision, we will subsequently seek to sell our shares to new investor(s). This has been our position from the start.

"Toshiba will consider participating in the project without taking on any risk from carrying out actual construction work.”

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

Last month the company announced its US subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, may have overpaid - by several billion dollars - for another nuclear construction and services business.

This led the company to the review of its involvement in non-Japanese nuclear projects as well as the sale of its semiconductor business.

Today's postponed announcement was put down to investigations its lawyers were carrying out into "inappropriate pressure" by Westinghouse's managers in relation to the purchase of the other nuclear business.

The company is also forecasting a group net loss of 390bn yen (£2.74bn) for the full year to March 31, instead of the 145bn yen (£1bn) profit it had anticipated earlier.

It also warned that all the estimates it has announced today that may change "by a wide margin" because of uncertainties.

The company's share price fell by eight per cent following today's activities.

Responding to Toshiba's comments a NuGen spokesman said: "NuGen acknowledges the announcement that Toshiba’s review into the future of its nuclear power business outside Japan is complete and that it remains committed to developing NuGen’s Moorside project."

Tom Samson, NuGen's chief executive, added: “The project has made significant progress since Toshiba took over as major shareholder in 2014. The site has already been proven as suitable for three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, two phases of consultation have found the public overwhelmingly supportive of the need for new nuclear and have helped shape the plans for Moorside.

“The UK Government is supportive of NuGen, as a maturing and highly skilled nuclear organisation, and has remained firmly committed to new nuclear - stating that nuclear has a crucial role to play in securing our future energy needs, especially as we look to move to a low carbon society.”

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: "I have spoken to Toshiba and NuGen today. I welcome the continued commitment of the Nugen consortium to the Moorside project.

"The UK Government is committed to new nuclear as an important part of our energy mix, having commissioned the first new nuclear power station in a generation.

"The UK is one of the most attractive countries to invest in new nuclear and we continue to work closely with partners to see Moorside built."

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