UK’s National Grid stops infrastructure work to Moorside NPP

The UK’s National Grid has “paused” plans to invest £2.8 billion ($3.62 billion) in grid infrastructure work needed for the proposed Moorside nuclear power plant (NPP) in northwest England, after developer NuGen began a “strategic review” of the project.

The grid operator revealed last Octbober a project to connect the plant in West Cumbria to the country’s electricity grid. New lines, crucial to the nuclear site, would be underground and under Morecambe Bay to protect the Lake District National Park. If consent was granted, construction would egin in 2019.

However, as Toshiba, the soon-to-be 100% owner of NuGen, disclosed major financial issues to the world, renewed doubts and challenges emerged over Moorside. Amid such circumstances, France's Engie, which held 40% of the joint venture with Toshiba, decided to exit the project.

“Following NuGen’s announcement of a strategic review of their project, we will work with them to understand the implications for the timeframe for their project,” a National Grid spokesman told Kallanish Energy. “We are pausing work on our connection. This will ensure we can align our plans both for the application for consent and the development of the infrastructure itself.”

On Tuesday, NuGen’s CEO Tom Samson said the company had a “tough start to 2017” and that he has held a series of meetings with representatives, technical and special interest groups in Cumbria to discuss the current transitional phase.

“At the end of March, it became clear we at NuGen had to take a step back due to these circumstances and revisit some fundamental elements … to deliver Moorside,” he said. “We took the decision to ‘hit the pause button’ in order to explore our options to move forward to our objective.”

During the review, NuGen was analyse the “universe of options” to deliver the 3,800-megawatts (MW) nuclear capacity by mid-2020s. They include new investors, technology and financing solutions, which are also been discussed with the UK government.

“I am 110% sure this phenomenal project, which will be transformational for Cumbria and the North of England, will go ahead,” Samson added.

UK regulators cleared in March the design assessment project for the Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactors planned for Moorside.