South Korean firm steps in to rescue £10bn Moorside nuclear project

State-owned South Korean energy company Kepco has been named as preferred bidder for Cumbria’s new-build Moorside nuclear plant, but the project could still be delayed beyond its 2025 start date.

Kepco confirmed on Thursday that Moorside’s main backer, Toshiba, had picked it as preferred bidder, with the two firms now entering a negotiation period before any contract is signed. A deal could be confirmed in the first half of next year, subject to the negotiation process.

Kepco was one of two bidders in the running to take over the construction of the nuclear plant, along with China General Nuclear Power Corporation. Nugen, owned by Toshiba, is acting as developer for the scheme.

The project has been troubled since Toshiba’s nuclear arm Westinghouse, which would have led on the construction and development of the plant, went bankrupt earlier this year. This was followed by Toshiba’s joint venture partner Engie pulling out of the project.

Moorside was originally slated to begin commissioning in 2025, but Nugen head Tom Samson said in October the scheme would now get underway “later in the 2020s”.

Kepco is yet to confirm whether it will want to use its own reactor design for the project.

Moorside currently plans to use Toshiba’s AP1000 reactor technology on the project, but this could be replaced if Kepco signs to become Toshiba’s joint venture partner.

As a result, it is understood that a process of using a new reactor design could lead to long delays to the project, with any new reactor needing to go through a four-year regulatory process before plans can be approved.

Moorside’s original AP1000 reactor already has regulatory approval.

As well as the nuclear power plant, the Moorside project plans to support infrastructure investment and housing in Cumbria.

Planned infrastructure investments include a major overhaul of stations at Corkickle and Mirehouse, new railway lines including a 285m extension to the St Bees Loop, and a marine off-loading facility.

It is understood that a business case was yet to be finalised for these investments before delays to the project earlier this year.

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