Westinghouse, the US nuclear unit of Japanese nuclear company Toshiba, has filed for US bankruptcy protection after struggling with hefty losses. The news is another blow for the Moorside nuclear project in West Cumbria, in which Toshiba is heavily involved, and could have far-reaching consequences for the UK's nuclear future plans.

Toshiba’s involvement in the Moorside nuclear project is through a 60 per cent stake in NuGen, a joint venture with France’s Engie, who are delivering the development. Its nuclear services business Westinghouse was to build the reactors for the new plant, but the company has suffered huge cost overruns at two US projects in Georgia and South Carolina.

Westinghouse announced a 'strategic restructuring' today (29 March 2017) and has secured $800 million in debtor-in-possession financing to fund operations.

Toshiba first alerted investors to the financial difficulties earlier in the year, but NuGen issued reassurances at the time that the project was still on track on the basis that Toshiba hoped to sell its majority stake in Westinghouse. However no buyer has been found. Westinghouse is said to bring in about one-third of the industrial giant's revenue. Moreover Toshiba says it expects a £5 billion write-down because some of its US nuclear assets were worth far less than estimated.

Westinghouse's interim President and CEO, José Emeterio Gutiérrez, said: “We are focused on developing a plan of reorganization to emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger company while continuing to be a global nuclear technology leader.”

The proposed Moorside nuclear power plant is planned for a site adjacent to the decommissioned Sellafield plant in West Cumbria. With a 3.4GW net output capacity, it would become the UK's biggest nuclear power station, delivering enough electricity to power approximately six million homes.

Chris Jukes of trade union GMB made an urgent appeal for clarity regarding the future of Moorside, saying: “This project could bring thousands of jobs to West Cumbria, lead to huge regeneration and infrastructure investment and provide as much as seven per cent of the UK's domestic energy needs. It is vital that this project is given the certainty it needs."

Photo: Sanman NPP, China, courtesy of Westinghouse