The £15 billion Moorside nuclear power station project in Cumbria has been left in tatters.

The economy-boosting project will now not happen after the owners of the developer behind the project, NuGen, took the decision to wind it up after failing to make sufficient progress on securing a buyer.

Toshiba announced this morning that it was taking the drastic step 18 months after it was left as the sole owner of NuGen, which had hoped to develop the Moorside site north of Sellafield.

The project would have created thousands of jobs during the construction and operation stage and generated around seven per cent of the UK’s energy needs.

Toshiba had previously said it wanted to offload NuGen by the end of the financial year, as it looks to divest completely from nuclear activity, but may make the decision earlier if it was not convinced a deal was achievable.

In a statement it said: “Under Toshiba’s policy to eliminate risks related to the overseas nuclear power construction business, Toshiba has invited new investors to participate in NuGen, and also considered the sale of Toshiba Group’s shareholding in NuGen.

“However, notwithstanding negotiations with multiple companies, Toshiba is unable to anticipate to complete the sale of NuGen during financial year 2018 to March 2019. After considering the additional costs entailed in continuing to operate NuGen, Toshiba recognises that the economically rational decision is to withdraw from the UK nuclear power plant construction project, and has resolved to take steps to wind-up NuGen.”

The company said the wind-up process would start by January 31 and it expected to incur losses before taxes of around £100.6 million (15 billion yen) as a result.

NuGen chief executive Tom Samson – who vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to salvage the project at the Cumbria Nuclear Conference in September – has praised Toshiba’s commitment to NuGen, having ploughed millions in to the developer to keep the project alive.

In a statement, NuGen said its team would work with Toshiba and its stakeholders to support the winding up process.

“NuGen would like to pay tribute to colleagues, its shareholder, Toshiba, and to the other stakeholders, and many various friends of the project both in Cumbria and beyond, who have supported NuGen’s efforts through its development phase and throughout the proposed sale negotiations,” it said.

NuGen also stressed that its demise did not necessarily mean that Cumbria’s nuclear new build ambitions were over.

“Whilst NuGen will not be taking the project forward, the Moorside site in Cumbria remains a site designated by Government for nuclear new build, and it is now for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as the owner of the site and the Government to determine its future,” it added.

The NDA continues to own the Moorside site, having leased it to NuGen, and it will remain earmarked as a source for new energy generation if the Government carries it forward in to its policy statement for 2026 to 2035.

Moorside has had a rocky road since it first emerged as a potential site for nuclear new build back in 2009.

NuGen, created by GDF Suez, Iberdrola and Scottish and Southern Energy, has seen owners come and go, with Toshiba left standing alone in April 2017 after Engie, the new name for GDF Suez, pulled out.

State-owned Korean utility Kepco had been the front-runner in the race to buy NuGen, having been named as “preferred bidder” in December 2017, with sources in Korea hopeful a deal would be done by September this year.

However, Toshiba stripped Kepco of the status in August because of the “prolonged time" it was taking to seal a deal, which resulted in NuGen reducing its team of 100 to just 32 as it focused on helping Toshiba find a buyer.

Kepco has had a deal for NuGen on the table since March has refused to sign on the dotted line until it has undertaken a study in to the risks and profitability of applying Regulated Asset Base model to finance Moorside, which allows government regulators to ensure stable returns and finance through government support.

Meanwhile, Canadian asset management firm Brookfield – who snapped up Westinghouse in a $4.6bn deal in January this year – had emerged as a potential buyer and talks with Toshiba were said to have accelerated in recent weeks.

Under the ownership of Toshiba, Westinghouse had been poised to develop three of its AP1000 reactors at Moorside, but the plans disintegrated after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA in early 2017 having overpaid by several billion dollars for another nuclear construction and services business.

The move resulted in Engine’s withdrawal and led Toshiba to look for buyer for NuGen.

MPs, business leaders, councillors and unions have all called for the Government to intervene to keep NuGen and Moorside alive, although in a television interview at last month’s Conservative Party Conference, Prime Minister Theresa May repeatedly dismissed it as a “commercial issue”.

Earlier this week, GMB national secretary Justin Bowden called for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to be scrapped and a new Nuclear Development Authority to be created to develop a small modular reactor on the site.

“Relying on foreign companies and countries for our essential energy needs is utterly irresponsible,” he added.