THE British and Korean governments have agreed to greater collaboration on nuclear developments, fuelling speculation that a Korean company is about to invest in west Cumbria’s Moorside power station.

Energy secretary Greg Clark and Paik Un-gyu, South Korean energy minister, signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday in London.

It promises greater collaboration in both the construction and decommissioning of nuclear power stations.

The signing appears to have only been reported by the World Nuclear News and Business Korea websites.

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: “The secretary of state met with the South Korean minister on Monday to discuss civil nuclear collaboration.

"They signed a memorandum of the meeting which noted the potential for collaboration in new nuclear and decommissioning. The Korean minister also confirmed Korea Electric Power Corporation’s interest in the NuGen project.”

State-run Kepco has revealed it is in “working-level” talks to buy a stake in NuGen – which plans to build three new reactions in west Cumbria to provide seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.

Toshiba, NuGen’s current owner, has been exploring a range of options to fund the project after its 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.

Toshiba has been considering selling some or all of its shares in a development which could be worth around £15bn, and create 6,500 jobs during the peak construction stage and 1,000 when operational.

China General Nuclear Power Corporation has also expressed an interest in Moorside but Kepco has emerged as the frontrunner in recent weeks, with the signing of the memorandum seen as an important step in preparing the way for Korean technology to be used in the UK’s new build developments.

Both companies have their own reactor designs that, if used at Moorside, will need regulatory approval.

Business Korea reported that the signing of the memorandum began a “countdown” for Kepco “landing the Moorside power plant order from the UK”.

It said the memorandum would “remove obstacles that may arise in licensing and approval processes in the future if Kepco acquires a 100 per cent stake from NuGen”.

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 there would push back the schedule.

He said: "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.”

World Nuclear News reported that there was an opportunity for the UK to export some of its decommissioning skills and technology to Korea, which shut down its oldest nuclear reactor, Kori Unit 1, in June.