Plans to build a tunnel under Morecambe Bay have been scrapped

How an access and ventilation 'island' might look in Morecambe Bay if the proposed electricity tunnel is built.
How an access and ventilation 'island' might look in Morecambe Bay if the proposed electricity tunnel is built.
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Plans to build a tunnel carrying electricity cables under Morecambe Bay have been scrapped.

The North West Coast Connections project wanted to connect the proposed 3,800 megawatt nuclear power station at Moorside near Sellafield to the main national grid electricity network.

This would mean running 400 kilovolt power lines overland north from Moorside to Harker, near Carlisle, and southwards to Heysham via a tunnel under Morecambe Bay.

But Toshiba has announced it is withdrawing from nuclear power plant construction project in the UK, meaning a proposed new nuclear station at Moorside will not be built.

A spokesman for National Grid which was in charge of the North West Coast Connections project said: “One of National Grid’s key roles is to connect new generation into the electricity transmission system.

“Work on planning to link the proposed new nuclear power station at Moorside into our network started in 2011 but was paused in May 2017 when Toshiba announced that they were undertaking a review of the viability of their project.

“We are in contact with Toshiba following their announcement.

“We currently have a connection agreement in place with the company but they are in the process of terminating this, which will effectively bring the North West Coast Connections project to an end.”

NuGen, which was to build the Moorside nuclear plant in Cumbria, said: “On November 8, 2018, Toshiba announced its intention to withdraw from the nuclear power plant construction project in the UK, NuGeneration Limited (NuGen) and to take steps to wind-up the business.

“The announcement comes after 18 months of negotiations with a range of potential new owners.

“Unfortunately, it has not been possible to successfully conclude those negotiations.

“NuGen has retained a team to support the implementation of a winding-up process and will work with Toshiba and its other stakeholders. “NuGen and Toshiba will comply with all necessary requirements to ensure an orderly wind-up, including the termination of the connection agreement with National Grid.

“Whilst NuGen will not be taking the project forward, the Moorside site in Cumbria remains a site designated by Government for nuclear new build, and it is now for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as the owner of the site and the Government to determine its future.”

MP David Morris said: “North West Coast Connections sole objective was to connect the new PowerStation at Moorside in Cumbria with the National Grid and the best place for them to do that was via a power tunnel into Heysham.

“The project has been effectively dormant since May 2017 when Toshiba, who were building the power station in Cumbria, had a review into their own project viability.

“Toshiba have now withdrawn from the Moorside project so at this moment the tunnel is no longer needed. This does not mean it will not be required in the future as when a new developer for the site in Cumbria is found it will then need to contact National Grid to make arrangements for connections to the grid in the same way.

“This will not affect the new nuclear build at Heysham as this is expected to be a completely different technology than the programme Toshiba could not fulfil at Moorside.”

The plans caused controversy with some residents worried over the route the tunnel might take under houses at Heysham.

There were also fears that building the tunnel head house might cause years of disruption for nearby residents.

The construction phase could have created many jobs, with National Grid hoping to source a significant proportion from people living in Lancashire.