The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) notes with little surprise today’s decision by the French energy utility Engie to pull out of the proposed Sellafield Moorside new nuclear development. This follows Toshiba’s nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse going into bankruptcy protection in the United States and its decision that it will not fund new nuclear reactors at the Moorside site. (1)
Engie follows on from the previous decisions over the past decade of E-on (Wylfa), RWE Npower (Wylfa), Iberdrola (Moorside), SSE (Moorside), Centrica (Hinkley Point) and seemingly Toshiba as well (Moorside) who have pulled out of developing new nuclear reactors in the UK.
The decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by Westinghouse Electric Co in late March has been defined as ‘an event of default’ that allows Engie to exercise its option to sell its stake to Toshiba. Toshiba has therefore had to agree to buy Engie’s 40% stake in the Moorside nuclear joint venture NuGen for an expected 15.3 billion yen (£110.8 million).
In February Toshiba announced that, though it would work on further initial development work at the Moorside site, it wants to sell its stake in the project and withdraw from it. At present, the UK Energy Minister Greg Clark is planning to travel to South Korea in a seemingly desperate bid to get the state utility Kepco to take up Toshiba’s stake. Now it will presumably be asked to take up the whole 100% of NuGen, unless the Government offer to put in a financial share to the company, which may cost as much as £7 billion upwards in order to realise the project. (2)
NFLA urges Greg Clark and the UK Government to admit the game is up. With EDF also under a mountain of debt putting its investment in Hinkley Point at risk (along with many other nuclear safety and decommissioning issues it has to deal with in France), and Hitachi posting a recent $620 million (£498 million) loss due to abandoning a planned uranium enrichment project in the United States, it is abundantly clear that the private sector cannot fund new nuclear in the UK. (3)
The alternative solution is obvious, and Engie itself is one of the prime examples of it, as it moves towards delivering decentralised and renewable energy projects around the UK. The price of solar and wind power is tumbling, energy storage technology is coming on tap, tidal and geothermal energy are looking more attractive and local authorities across the UK and Ireland are doing all they can to get into the energy market. The Government cannot ignore the obvious – the ‘big energy’ model has collapsed. It is time to follow the German and Danish example and embrace the decentralised energy revolution instead.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:
The decision by Engie to abandon Sellafield Moorside and the nuclear renaissance is driven by cold, hard, rational logic. There was never a nuclear renaissance as the finances for it have never been there. I urge the government not to chuck billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to save this policy. It has to rapidly change course and embrace the renewables it has tried so hard to weaken in the past year. Local councils would be more than happy to cooperate with it to deliver decentralised energy policies that are eminently realisable and would create thousands of high quality local jobs, assist in the mitigation of climate change and reduce the modern scourge of fuel poverty. Greg Clark should not be going to South Korea, he should be initiating an energy review to redirect policy to the renewable energy revolution.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Reuters, 4th April 2017 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-engie-m-a-toshiba-idUSKBN1760XP
(2) NFLA Media Release, 15th February 2017 https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/news/toshiba-want-out-moorside-nuclear-project-uk-needs-new-energy-policy/
(3) No2nuclearpower.org.uk, Nuclear News, March 2017 http://no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo93.pdf