The £10bn Moorside nuclear power plant has been plunged into further doubt after Korean energy firm Kepco lost its preferred bidder status to develop the scheme.
The plant’s current developer Toshiba is now looking at alternative options for the future of the site after negotiations with Kepco failed to reach a conclusion.
Kepco looked to have saved the embattled project when it swooped in December last year and was named preferred bidder ahead of China’s CGN.
The protracted negotiations have also forced NuGen, Toshiba’s Moorside development body, to restructure its business.
A NuGen spokesperson said: “The prolonged time it has taken to reach a conclusion has required NuGen to undertake a review.
“As such additional options are being pursued […] it has been decided by the NuGen board to re-profile the organisation at this point in order to pursue alternatives.”
The Guardian reported this week that NuGen had cut a large proportion of the 100 staff it employed.
A NuGen spokesman rejected the report, saying that while it had “entered into a statutory consultation process with its employees to review its future scale and scope” and that there could be redundancies, it was “incorrect” to stay staff had already lost their jobs.
Doubt was first cast on the project last year when Toshiba posted an $8.4bn loss, largely due to a $6.3bn writedown of CB&I Stone & Webster, which was owned by Toshiba’s US subsidiary Westinghouse Electric.
Westinghouse, whose AP1000 reactor was to be used at the Moorside plant, filed for bankruptcy in March 2017.
This prompted Toshiba’s JV partner Engie to exit the scheme by triggering a clause in its contract to sell its 40 per cent stake to Toshiba.
Kepco made its offer later that year as part of CEO Kim Jong-kap’s push to export the state-owned company’s nuclear technology.
The UK government signalled its willingness earlier this year to part-fund the Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant in Wales – a project backed by Japanese technology giant Hitachi.
However, the National Infrastructure Commission last month called on government to withhold financial support for all but one of the planned new nuclear projects until at least 2025.
The commission said the government should focus on investing in renewable energy projects instead, some of which are now being built with no government subsidies.