Technology giant Toshiba agreed a £102m deal to buy a majority stake in a project to build three nuclear reactors in the UK.
Under the deal, three AP1000 nuclear reactors will be constructed at Moorside, near the Sellafield site in Cumbria, by Toshiba-owned Westinghouse Electric Company, which the firm says will create thousands of skilled jobs over the next decade.
Planning permission will have to be granted, a nuclear licence obtained and detailed designs for the site finalised before building work can begin, but the first unit is expected to be online in 2024 and when fully operational the Moorside site is expected to deliver around 7 per cent of the electricity requirements of the UK.
Toshiba has agreed in principle to buy a 60 per cent share in NuGeneration Ltd (NuGen), while the reactors will be built in partnership with global utility group GDF Suez.
Jeffrey Benjamin, senior vice president of nuclear power plants at Westinghouse, said: "This project supports the UK government's policy for new nuclear development – the timetable to operation, financial robustness, proven technology, and the project's overall benefit to the UK economy.
"The global expertise and commitment of Toshiba, Westinghouse's world-leading technology vendor status, and GDF Suez's pioneering expertise as a European nuclear operator are a powerful combination. We know that this plant design is the right choice for the future, the right choice for Cumbria and the UK."
Energy minister Michael Fallon said: "The announcement by NuGen and Toshiba and Westinghouse shows that the UK is an attractive destination for investors in new nuclear.
"New nuclear is a vital part of our energy mix and it is important that we renew and replace our fleet of power stations. This will create outstanding opportunities for the UK, creating investment, jobs and growth while reducing the UK's emissions."
Gary Smith, national officer of the GMB, said: "West Cumbria has skills in the nuclear sector that are second to none. This would be a huge boost to the local economy if this power station gets the go-ahead.
"We need government assurances over connections to the National Grid and we will obviously want talks with the companies involved to ensure the construction and manufacturing supply chain and the local community benefit from this project."
The announcement comes after a breakthrough in efforts to construct a new generation of nuclear reactors in the UK, when the government and French energy giant EDF agreed a price for the electricity generated by a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
The so-called "strike price" was agreed late last year, though EU regulators have opened an "in-depth investigation" to examine whether UK support for a new nuclear power station breaks state aid rules.
Another Japanese giant, Hitachi, has also bought into the UK nuclear industry by taking over the Horizon project to build new reactors at Wylfa in North Wales and Oldbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire.
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