A Korean utility firm has been confirmed as the preferred bidder for Cumbria's Moorside development.

It has been hailed a milestone to cement the county's status as a world leader in nuclear.

Speaking exclusively to in-Cumbria, NuGen chief executive Tom Samson, said the desire of Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) to acquire NuGen was a major vote of confidence for Cumbria and for the UK nuclear sector.

Kepco has been granted preferred bidder status to acquire NuGen – the consortium set up to deliver Moorside – following months of talks with its sole shareholder Toshiba.

Toshiba has been exploring options to secure the future for the Moorside project, which is worth an estimated £15 billion and, once completed, will generate around seven per cent of the UK’s energy needs.

Mr Samson said several steps were needed to close a transaction that will bring huge levels of investment and create thousands of jobs in Cumbria.

He said: “All parties involved will now dedicate themselves to getting this important deal done.

"Teams from Kepco will now work with Toshiba and the UK government to consider the proposals and in parallel Kepco will seek approval from the government in Korea to enter the UK and acquire NuGen.

“NuGen does not intend to provide a running commentary during these discussions, but we will continue to work tirelessly to bring these discussions to a successful conclusion so that we can move forward with delivering the Moorside project as soon as possible.

“It is vital for the UK nuclear industry as well as Cumbria that we succeed.

“Moorside will deliver the low carbon reliable power this country needs, provide exciting employment opportunities for the next generation of engineers and scientists in Cumbria and create important economic benefits across the region.

"An investment of this magnitude and importance is essential to our energy security and will ensure we meet our commitments to a low carbon economy in the UK.”

Mr Samson stressed that NuGen would continue its long-standing commitment to work in partnership with stakeholders across Cumbria.

“We will continue working with schools on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education projects, community groups on environmental projects, volunteering in the community, partnering with local youth charities and implementing our approach to identifying and creating a sustainable legacy by delivering innovative solution which will help foster entrepreneurialism and aspirational thinking in our communities.”

Mr Samson has already highlighted that a change in the ownership and introduction of new technology would push original timescales back, but was keen to stress Kepco’s profile in the industry.

He said: “Importantly for the UK, Kepco are at the forefront of modern nuclear power technology.

“The first APR1400 went into service over a year ago, with another completed unit due to go online shortly and a further two units under construction.

"In addition, four more reactors are complete or nearing completion in Abu Dhabi – demonstrating KEPCO’s ability to successfully build new nuclear installations at home and abroad.”

Closer to home, NuGen has also been heavily involved in helping to secure a Nuclear Sector Deal between the industry and the Government.

He added: "The deal will outline how we can deliver sustainable cost reductions for new nuclear, increase the opportunities for UK manufacturers to participate in the sector, and strengthen efforts to tackle the ongoing

skills challenges."

Toshiba has been exploring investment options for NuGen since its subsidiary Westinghouse Electric – due to supply three AP1000 reactors to Moorside – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US having overpaid by several billion dollars for another nuclear construction and services business.

China General Nuclear Power Corporation had also expressed an interest in the project, but appears to have missed out following the announcement.

NuGen will be among the speakers at the Nuclear Industry Associations annual conference, which takes place in London tomorrow.

Keep up-to- date with the latest from the NIA event with live Tweets from in-Cumbria.