Kepco has been stripped of its 'preferred bidder' status for the West Cumbrian Moorside project.

It has been reported that Toshiba announced the Korean utility has lost the status for the purchase of its firm NuGen and it would look at other options for the £15 billion nuclear new build next to the Sellafield site in West Cumbria.

News agency Reuters reported that a Toshiba spokeswoman said: "Toshiba continues to consider additional options including the sale of its shares in NuGen to Kepco, and we are carefully monitoring the situation, in consultation with stakeholders including the UK government."

Last week, it was announced that NuGen wanted to restructure the company because of the "prolonged time" it was taking to seal the deal with Kepco.

Around 100 staff and contractor jobs, including that of chief executive Tom Samson, are at risk under the restructuring plans.

Talks were understood to be at an advanced stage between Toshiba and Kepco, over the ownership of the company and Kepco representatives were understood to have flown in to the UK this week for discussions.

Cumbrian MPs have urged the UK Government to step in to help with the deal.

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison said: “The Government must take a proactive stance. Nuclear new build is not commercially viable without Government support.

"It is now time for Government to get a grip on our energy policy. In Cumbria we have the skills and experience.”

Mrs Harrison is setting up a Moorside strategic partnership, with representatives from Sellafield, Cumbria LEP and councils.

Barrow MP John Woodcock said: “The Government must not allow the lights to go out in West Cumbria and has to stand by the development of new civil nuclear build in West Cumbria.

“It will be utterly disastrous to allow the prospect of nuclear new build to go by the wayside."

Carlisle MP John Stevenson, who will host the Cumbria Nuclear Conference on September 21, said: "I have long felt the Government needs to take a more proactive role in Moorside.

"They are willing to step in at Wylfa and should do so, possibly in a different way, here.

“Moorside is significant to Cumbria and the UK’s energy supply."

Sue Hayman, Workington MP, has written to the Government to ask them to act immediately over NuGen.

Mrs Hayman, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nuclear Energy, said: "NuGen is now in the last chance saloon. The Government must act now or it will be too late, and West Cumbria will not get the 20,000 jobs, economic investment and infrastructure improvements that depend on Moorside."

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: “This latest wound by the Government to the plans for a much needed new nuclear power station at Moorside in Cumbria is totally self-inflicted.

"The lessons from the collapse of Toshiba should have been well and truly learned long ago: relying on foreign companies and countries for our essential energy needs is sheer folly.

"Secondly, by giving the go ahead on a new, publicly funded power station at Wylfa only last month, ministers showed that they knew there was a common sense alternative.

"As well as eradicating the uncertainty, by the Government taking a stake and taking control at Moorside, the price to consumers will be greatly reduced making good all round sense, not just the obvious benefits to bill payers but because the Government is ‘the lender of last resort’ when it comes to guaranteeing the country’s energy supply and so direct public funding of the construction does away with the nonsensical pretence that this is some other country or company’s responsibility.

“West Cumbria vitally needs Moorside and the accompanying creation of thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships, means a huge boost to the economy and reliable, zero carbon electricity to millions of homes.”

Moorside has been described as a “transformational” project for Cumbria’s economy.

The award of preferred bidder status to Kepco in December followed months of speculation over the future of a Moorside, which would create thousands of jobs during construction and operation and generate around seven per cent of the UK’s energy needs.

In early 2017 Westinghouse – the then subsidiary of Toshiba which was due to supply three AP1000 reactors to Moorside – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the USA.

This led French firm Engie, which formerly held a minority stake in NuGen, to trigger shareholder agreements which forced Toshiba to take full control.

As a result Toshiba, which has since sold Westinghouse for £3bn, pursued the sale of some, if not all, of its stake in NuGen, revealing Kepco as its preferred bidder following reported discussions with China General Nuclear Power Corporation.

However, since talks between Toshiba and Kepco got under way in earnest, Government policy on support for nuclear new build has appeared to shift after Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said it would weigh up putting money in to the Horizon nuclear project at Wylfa Newydd, Anglesey, alongside developer Hitachi.

At the time NuGen welcomed the progress with the Horizon project, saying: “the development of an enduring and stable policy will reassure investors of the Government’s commitment”.

The landmark Nuclear Sector Deal published by the Government last month also pledged to drive down the cost of nuclear new build projects by up to 30 per cent by 2030.

The huge up-front cost of financing new nuclear projects is viewed as one of the biggest challenges faced by the industry and pressure has been mounting from both MPs and unions for the Government to take a stake in to ensure they progress.