France’s Engie (formerly GDF Suez) confirmed on 4 April that it was exercising its right to sell its 40% stake in the NuGen venture in the UK to Toshiba following the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Toshiba’s US subsidiary Westinghouse Electric. Toshiba will pay JPY15.3bn ($138.5m) for the stake. This makes Toshiba sole owner of NuGen, which plans to build three Westinghouse Generation III+ AP1000 nuclear reactors at Moorside in Cumbria, northwest England. However, Toshiba said earlier that it was looking for more investors to join the Moorside project or to sell out altogether.
Engie said NuGen is facing “some significant challenges” which had led Engie to it decision. “Engie remains willing to put its knowhow and expertise at the service of NuGen and help any restructuring with new potential partners for the development, construction and operation of the project,” its statement said. “Engie, through its affiliates Engie Electrabel, Tractebel, Endel, Engie Axima and engie Ineo, remains an important contributor to the European nuclear industry.”
Toshiba acquired its 60% stake in NuGen in June 2014 by purchasing all the shares held by Spanish energy company Iberdrola and another 10% share held by Engie. Toshiba subsequently partnered with Engie to develop the Moorside project.UK regulators announced on 30 March that the AP1000 had successfully completed the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process. NuGen is now working towards final investment decisions on the project, including acquiring a development permit.
It was reported last week that South Korea’s biggest power company has been in talks to join the consortium backing Moorside. Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) said it was interested in taking a stake in NuGen.
Kepco’s president, Cho Hwan-eik, said that once the terms of a potential deal were ironed out, “we will be the first to jump into the race”. UK business minister Greg Clark, who was in Seoul on 5 April for talks on the issue, said: "It would be a positive partnership that we feel that the UK and Korea can have in nuclear, but on the particular project of Moorside, that is for the developers to make a proposal."
However, Reuters reported that Kepco was cautious, citing “two people with direct knowledge of the matter”. "Both Britain and Toshiba, they seem to be in a greater hurry than we thought and pushing Kepco. In fact, it requires considerable time to review a project, so it is not a matter that can be done hastily," one of the sources said. A Kepco spokesman said the company will make its position clear once it has reviewed terms and conditions of any potential investment carefully. A key issue is likely to be the technology used for the Moorside project with Kepco preferring its own APR1400, rather than the AP1000. This would cause delays, as the APR1400 would first have to go through the UK GDA process. "Kepco is working and studying hard which type of nuclear reactors would suit better for them, given the current market situation," the second of Reuters’ sources said.