* Toshiba posts $6.3 bln hit on Westinghouse
* Raises questions over UK Moorside project
* Project could provide 7 pct of UK's energy
(Updates with details, govt, Toshiba, union comment)
By Susanna Twidale and Karolin Schaps
LONDON, Feb 14 The future of Britain's new
Moorside nuclear plant was thrown into doubt on Tuesday after
Japan's Toshiba Corp, which is developing the project
with France's Engie, said it planned to pull out of
the construction work.
Toshiba, which earlier delayed reporting its earnings,
posted a $6.3 billion hit to its U.S. nuclear unit,
"Toshiba will consider participating in the (Moorside)
project without taking on any risk from carrying out actual
construction work," it said in a presentation to investors.
Britain needs to invest in new infrastructure to replace
aging coal and nuclear plants set to close in the 2020s, but has
struggled to get large projects built, especially nuclear, due
to the costs involved.
EDF's 18 billion pound ($22.5 billion) Hinkley
Point C nuclear project in southwest England got the final
go-ahead in 2016 after several years of delay, but only after
securing backing from the French government.
"It's a pretty challenging time and it's difficult anyway to
work out how to make nuclear projects financeable," said Chris
Lewis, head of UK energy infrastructure at consultancy EY, who
has previously advised France's EDF on Hinkley Point.
"The government needs to look at the risk-sharing agreement
for the contracts. There needs to be more clarity on what the
product designers are willing to do in order to attract a
developer to operate or a financial developer," he said.
Engie said on Tuesday it was still looking for partners
willing to share the risk of investing in the Moorside project.
Business and energy minister Greg Clark said the government
is committed to nuclear as an important part of Britain's energy
"The UK is one of the most attractive countries to invest in
new nuclear and we continue to work closely with partners to see
Moorside built," he said.
NuGen, the joint venture developing the plant, said on
Tuesday Toshiba "remains committed to developing NuGen's
Moorside Project", and that the venture "will continue to
progress plans to develop (the project)".
NuGen plans to build three nuclear reactors at the Moorside
site on the coast of Cumbria, northwest England, using
Westinghouse technology currently being assessed by Britain's
The three reactors would have a total generating capacity of
up to 3.8 gigawatts, covering around 7 percent of Britain's
Earlier this month, sources said Toshiba planned to exit the
$15-20 billion project. Last year, the company was
said to be in talks with Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) about
buying all or part of its stake in NuGen..
Toshiba said NuGen's fixed asset balance was worth 210
Unite, Britain's largest trade union, called on the
government to do more to safeguard the future of new power
projects such as Moorside.
"It is the duty of the government, not the private sector,
to ensure that UK energy is safe and secure and that means it
must act to bring our new power stations on stream," it said in
($1 = 0.8023 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Geert De Clercq in Paris; Editing by
Dale Hudson and Jason Neely)