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“CHAOTIC” and “irresponsible” Tory energy policy was blamed today as Japanese firm Toshiba declared it was withdrawing from the British nuclear industry and winding up its nuclear arm – a decision that puts paid to a planned nuclear power station and 20,000 jobs.
Unions and the Labour Party said the decision was a huge blow to the north-west of England, which would have benefited from jobs at the planned plant at Moorside in Cumbria.
Anti-nuclear campaigners said the cancellation lends weight to their call for investment in clean renewable energy because it proves that nuclear power is not economically viable.
A statement from Tokyo said that the winding-up of Toshiba’s NuGen business would start in the new year after the company had considered the “additional costs” of continuing the operation.
NuGen said the announcement followed 18 months of unsuccessful negotiations with a range of potential new owners.
It added that what is to be done with the site of the planned power station must now be decided by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which owns the land, and the British government.
Energy workers’ unions GMB and Unite both laid the blame for the chaos squarely at the government’s feet.
GMB national officer Justin Bowden said it had always been “irresponsible” to “rely in this way on foreign companies for our country’s energy needs. Add to that the multiple opportunities to step in and take control that were missed or ignored.”
He called on the NDA to be “immediately given a role for nuclear development” to build a small modular nuclear reactor at Moorside.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said it was “not surprising” that ministers refused to rescue the plans, even though Labour had long urged the government to take a public stake in Moorside.
A Business Department spokesperson said all new proposed nuclear projects are led by private-sector developers, and Toshiba’s decision was a commercial one.
But Unite official Ritchie James described the news as “a cruel blow to the prospects for the north-west economy.
“It is not too late to revive this project, but it needs the active engagement of government, including the commitment of public money,” he urged.
“We will work with other stakeholders, such as local authorities, to see that this project eventually comes to fruition.
“The hands-off attitude of the government has been the elephant in the room and today this ‘one step removed’ approach has come home to roost. This is another example of the government’s chaotic attitude to policy-making.”
Green and anti-nuclear groups said that Toshiba’s withdrawal from nuclear operations in Britain should propel the government towards a focus on harvesting clean renewable energy.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “The end of the Moorside plan represents a failure of the government’s nuclear gamble.
“The government now needs to rapidly deploy renewable energy to fill the gap.
“That means restarting onshore wind, a new deal for expanding solar power and upping ambition on more offshore wind.”
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament acting general secretary Sara Medi Jones opposed calls for the government to step in, saying that the nuclear industry already “relies on enormous state subsidies at taxpayers’ expense.”
She added: “Only last week, we heard about the £121 billion Sellafield clean-up that is over budget and behind schedule.
“New nuclear plants are expensive to set up and run and they leave a legacy of dangerous waste that future generations have to clear up.”
Lamiat Sabin is the Morning Star’s Parliamentary Reporter.
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