A South Korean utility firm has been selected as the preferred bidder for the Moorside nuclear power station development in West Cumbria, it has been claimed.

The Korea Herald newspaper reported that Korea Electric Power Corporation, or Kepco, has taken pole position in the £15bn project to develop a new power station capable of generating seven per cent of the UK’s energy needs.

According to the newspaper, Kepco has been in discussions with current owners Toshiba, to acquire a 100 per cent share in NuGen.

It is understood that detailed negotiations will take place over the next few months with the ambition to sign a deal in the first half of 2018.

An official announcement is expected later this week.

State-run Kepco confirmed it was in talks with Toshiba over acquiring a stake in the NuGen consortium in June.

NuGen’s sole remaining shareholder Toshiba had been considering selling some or all its shared after then 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.

Since then speculation of Korean investment has intensified.

Last month, energy secretary Greg Clark and his Korean counterpart Paik Un-gyu has signed a memorandum promising greater collaboration between the two countries in both the construction and decommissioning of nuclear power stations.

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: "The Korean minister also confirmed Korea Electric Power Corporation’s interest in the NuGen project."

Kepco’s APR-1400 reactor design, if used at Moorside, will need regulatory approval.

During an interview in October, Tom Samson, chief executive of NuGen, said he expected a new investor to be in place in the early part of 2018 and that would push back the schedule for work to begin.

"When we are in a partnership with different technologies and shareholders, it is inevitable that that would change schedules. We will have a new plan which we will need to create with any new owner and that will take us beyond 2025.”

Closer to home, the UK national media speculated at the weekend that an official announcement from Kepco will be backed up with a series of pledges from the UK government to support the nuclear industry.

The latest revelations come as nuclear industry leaders from around the UK and overseas begin to gather in London for the Nuclear Industry Associations annual conference.

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