The consortium behind the proposed £15 billion Moorside project in West Cumbria has welcomed a Government pledge to consider investing in new nuclear plants.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said the Government would weigh up whether to put money in to the Horizon nuclear project at Wylfa Newydd, Anglesey, alongside developer Hitachi.

In a statement to parliament, Mr Clark left open the possibility of direct Government investment in to other proposed nuclear plants, including Moorside, stressing that nuclear had an “important role to play in the UK’s energy future as we transition to the low carbon economy”.

The huge up-front cost of financing new nuclear projects is viewed as one of the biggest challenges faced by the industry.

Negotiations are currently taking place between NuGen owner Toshiba, Korean utility Kepco and the UK and Korean Governments over the Moorside project, which would be built on land adjacent to the Sellafield site, has the potential to generate around seven per cent of the UK’s energy needs.

Kepco was granted preferred bidder status to acquire full control of NuGen at the end of 2017, with a Kepco official recently quoted as saying they hoped the deal would be completed by September this year.

A spokesman for NuGen welcomed the “significant” progress made on the Horizon project, saying the Government’s desire to see more plants built was also positive for Moorside.

“Financing projects of this nature, with high upfront cost and a long return period has always been challenging and the development of an enduring and stable policy will reassure investors of the Government’s commitment,” he said.

“NuGen looks forward to continuing its discussions with the Government on sustainable funding models for new nuclear build, which is crucial for the UK to realise its objectives of energy security, price stability and decarbonisation.”

In the statement, Mr Clark said the UK was “likely to need significant new nuclear capacity in order to meet our carbon reduction commitments at least cost, particularly as we electrify more of our transport and heating”.

He also said the Government’s long-term ambition was to see project entirely financed by the public sector and that taxpayers should get value for money.

His comments were also welcomed by the Nuclear Industry Association, who stressed the importance of the nuclear industry, which contributes 20 per cent of the UK’s energy, generates more than £6.4bn in GDP and supports 64,000 jobs, the majority of which are based in and around West Cumbria.

Its chief executive, Tom Greatrex, said: “The industry particularly welcomes the news of government commitment to consider different funding models, including direct investment, for financing nuclear new build projects.

“This will reduce overall project costs and, in turn, the cost to consumers as we transition to a low carbon electricity system able to meet our future energy challenges.”