Toshiba eyes UK reactor project

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 4:31pm

More than 2½ years after meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant effectively shut down Japan's nuclear industry, one of the makers of the wrecked reactors is determined to breathe new life into the business through a major contract in Britain.

Without a single reactor order since a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered disaster at the plant in 2011, Toshiba chief executive Hisao Tanaka is chasing a deal by the end of this year that would give the company a majority stake in a project to build a new British nuclear plant.

If Tanaka succeeds in taking control of the NuGen nuclear consortium, a Japan push backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government to promote nuclear know-how overseas could provide a launch pad for Toshiba to achieve its target of 29 new nuclear reactor orders by March 2018.

Even as all of Japan's domestic nuclear plants remain offline, Tanaka said he was optimistic the post-Fukushima chill over the nuclear industry was thawing and technology contained in Toshiba's Westinghouse division would remain a cornerstone of the industrial conglomerate's business.

"We felt a backlash against nuclear power for a while, but I think it's gradually being reassessed," he said. "The pace [of orders] has dropped, but when you look around the world, the importance of nuclear power has increased."

Winning a majority stake in NuGen would give Toshiba a foothold in pro-nuclear Britain.

Spanish utility Iberdrola is in talks to sell its 50 per cent stake in NuGen, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. Taking a majority stake would require Westinghouse to buy shares both from Iberdrola and joint NuGen shareholder GDF Suez.