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Nuclear power station review puts RIBA competition on hold

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The RIBA competition to design ancillary buildings and a masterplan for Cumbria’s Moorside nuclear power station near Sellafield has been halted pending a review of the troubled £10 billion scheme

The contest – which has yet to announce a winner – has been temporarily stopped after the plant’s developer launched a strategic review of the project following the withdrawal of one of its two backers.

The RIBA competition, backed by NuGen, a joint venture by Japanese multinational conglomerate Toshiba and French utility company ENGIE, opened in January 2016 and sought ideas for the 200ha site’s visitor centre, an office block, workers’ accommodation and masterplan. Shortlisted firms include Reiach and Hall Architects, William Matthews Associates, FaulknerBrowns Architects and Graeme Massie Architects. 

The review comes as ENGIE, which owned a 40 per cent stake in NuGen, triggered a clause that forced 60 per cent-stakeholder Toshiba to buy its 40 per cent share.

NuGen said it was carrying out a company-wide review of its options following ‘shareholder and vendor challenges on the project’. In a statement, the developer said: ‘NuGen is confident that the review will lead them to an outcome that provides a more robust, stable and sustainable platform to meet its commitment to deliver the next generation of nuclear baseload for the UK.’

The statement continued: ‘In line with this strategic review, work in this design area has now paused as NuGen concentrates its activities in transitioning the company as part of this wider review. NuGen is communicating with the companies involved in the design competition to keep them informed, and with the potential to formalise the relationship, if possible once the outcome of the strategic review is clear.’

NuGen said it remained a key player in the UK nuclear industry and was confident the review would provide a more robust, stable and sustainable platform to deliver the project, The Times reported on Sunday.

ENGIE pulled out in April more than a month after Toshiba posted losses of £2.7 billion and announced a review of its global nuclear business. Toshiba, now the sole owner of NuGen, has been beset with financial difficulties recently, largely brought on by problems in its US reactor arm, Westinghouse. Westinghouse, which is expected to supply Moorside with three AP100 reactors, last month filed for bankruptcy following a number of ill-fated construction projects in the USA.

Following its global review, Toshiba confirmed it would remain involved in the development of the Moorside project but ruled out playing any part in its construction.

Planned to complete in 2025, the 3.6GW triple-reactor – designed by Scott Brownrigg – will produce almost 7 per cent of the UK’s total electricity needs when it comes online. About 4,000 new homes, a railway station, health centre and other amenities were originally planned to cater for the plant’s workforce.

A separate competition – organised by the Landscape Institute – was also launched in January 2016 to find ‘creative and sustainable’ proposals for the facility’s surroundings but no winner has been announced. Shortlisted were: Iteriad with Stephenson Halliday and Charles and Lily Jencks; Aecom; One Creative Environments; Estell Warren; and HEPLA.

The two competitions together had a £20,000 prize fund, with the winning architect and landscape architect originally set to receive £5,000 each and a chance to bid for work on the scheme.

Judges in the RIBA contest included Terry Farrell, Simon Hudspith of Panter Hudspith Architects and former Lake District National Park Authority chief executive Paul Tiplady.

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