South Korean state utility Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) has won preferred bidder status for Toshiba's NuGen, the business behind the Moorside nuclear project in Cumbria.
Kepco had been in negotiations with the troubled Japanese firm for months, along with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), and the announcement finally gives some certainty to the project, which is billed as the biggest nuclear plant in western Europe.
Negotiations are expected to continue over the next few months, and a deal is set to be signed in the first half of next year if all goes to plan.
A Kepco spokesperson told Reuters the company had not yet received government approval, or generic design assessment (GDA), for its own nuclear reactor design.
The Korean state-owned firm plans to use its own nuclear reactor design for the project. Westinghouse, Toshiba’s nuclear arm, won regulatory approval to build its reactors at the site, but the firm filed for bankruptcy in March causing France’s Engie to back out and the project's future to be thrown into doubt.
“Toshiba has been engaged with multiple credible and capable parties who have expressed an interest in acquiring NuGen, further testimony of the attractiveness of the nuclear industry in the UK and an indication of the degree of foreign investment that is ready and willing to enter this market,” a NuGen spokesperson said.
“NuGen and its shareholder Toshiba are exploring a range of options for funding the Moorside project, which includes Toshiba selling some or all its shareholding in NuGen."
The UK has plans to build a new generation of nuclear reactors to maintain the country's energy security. NuGen, which is expected to provide about seven per cent of Britain's electricity, had planned to start generation by 2025. It has previously said the plant should still be running before 2030.
A recent report found that the UK's civil nuclear sector contributed £6.4bn to the economy last year.