A LEADING Cumbrian politician has predicted the proposed Moorside nuclear power plant will be a 'huge engine for growth of the Cumbrian economy'.

David Southward, Cumbria County Council's cabinet spokesman on nuclear issues, said the NuGen deal would turn West Cumbria into 'a powerhouse for UK plc'.

His comments came after two deals were signed which will pave the way to a £10 billion investment and the creation of 21,000 jobs at the Moorside site, close to the existing Sellafield plant.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has confirmed it has concluded a £200m deal with the site’s developer NuGen on the extension of a land option agreement for the site.

The land sale accompanies confirmation from NuGen that Toshiba Corporation has acquired a 60 per cent  stake in NuGen , while GDF SUEZ will retain its 40 per cent stake in the business.

The land deal and confirmation of corporate shareholding cement the building blocks necessary for the largest, single proposed nuclear power plant construction project in Europe. NuGen plans to build three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in West Cumbria.

Each reactor will take approximately four years to build and the plant is targeted to come online in 2024, with full commercial operation by 2026. When fully operational, Moorside will have a combined capacity of 3.4GW, enough to deliver power to six million homes, or seven percent of the U.K.’s future electricity requirements.

NuGen said it expected peak on-site employment of more than 6,000 people during construction. In the operational phase the three reactors will sustain around 1,000 permanent jobs over the course of the reactors' lifetimes.

Coun Southward, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member responsible for nuclear issues, said: “This is another positive move in the development of a new generation of nuclear power production in West Cumbria. NuGen now has its shareholders in place and confirmation from the NDA on site ownership. It’s another important step in the development of this massive project which will be a linchpin of West Cumbria’s economic future.

“The scale of the contribution that Cumbria is set to make in securing a low-carbon future for the UK's energy supply is massive. This site will be a powerhouse for UK plc and also a huge engine of growth for the Cumbrian economy, which is already the home of Britain’s nuclear skills and expertise. There’s a massive amount of work to do, but it is amazing to think that in 10 years time Moorside could be delivering power to the nation’s homes."

Toshiba said the deal would create a 'powerful joint venture' to drive the project forward. NuGen chief executive Sandy Rupprecht said: "Moorside is the most exciting new nuclear build project in Europe, without a doubt.

"We will be taking forward our project in West Cumbria, the UK's nuclear heartland – and we expect the national and regional economies to benefit extensively from the Moorside development.

"We will be working closely with our stakeholders, to keep them informed and included in the process, and we will be working towards building a robust business case for the project." Energy

Minister Michael Fallon said: “The Moorside new nuclear project will bring at least £10 billion of investment and is expected to create up to 21,000 jobs, while also providing a reliable source of low carbon energy for over six million homes.

This announcement is a significant step towards new reactors likely to come online in 2024 and shows how attractive the UK is for investors”.