Plans for a proposed new nuclear power station in the north-west of England were thrown into further doubt on Tuesday after Engie, the French utility company, said it was planning to sell its entire holding in a joint venture that is developing the plant.

Engie, whose commitment to the Moorside nuclear project in Cumbria had long been questioned, said on Tuesday that it intended to sell its 40 per cent holding to its partner in the joint venture, Toshiba, the troubled Japanese multi-national.

Toshiba already owns the remaining 60 per cent of the NuGen consortium behind the nuclear plant, which is intended to meet 8 per cent of Britain’s electricity needs.

The French utility has exercised its right under an agreement drawn up between the two companies over NuGen that allows it to sell all of its shares to Toshiba in the “event of a default”.

Toshiba’s decision to place its nuclear unit – Westinghouse – into bankruptcy protection last week qualifies as such an event, Toshiba said in a statement on Tuesday. Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design is intended to be used for the Moorside plant.

Toshiba said it would pay around 15.3bn yen ($138.7m) for Engie’s stake in Nugen. Under its agreement with the French utility, it is required to pay at least the amount that Engie invested to acquire its stake.

The stake sale is the latest turn in a series of troubling developments that have raised serious doubts over the future of the Moorside project. Toshiba said in February that it was looking to sell its own majority stake in NuGen.

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