Korea's KEPCO in talks to buy into UK nuclear project NuGen: source

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) - South Korean power utility KEPCO 015760.KS is in talks with Japan's Toshiba and France's Engie about buying a stake in the Toshiba-Engie British nuclear joint venture NuGen, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday.

The source did not specify whether Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) would buy a part or all of the stakes of Toshiba 6502.T or Engie ENGIE.PA. Both firms are looking for partners to reduce their share in the capital-intensive project.

The source said it is not certain that KEPCO would buy into NuGen and that it was one of several options under review.

The Financial Times on Monday reported KEPCO had resumed talks about joining the 10 billion-pound ($13 billion) NuGen project after negotiations stalled three years ago and is mulling taking an equity stake and a role in constructing the nuclear plant near Sellafield, northwest England.

“We are looking for investors and are talking to a wide range of people,” said a spokesman for NuGen when contacted by Reuters, declining to comment on whether talks were taking place with KEPCO.

Engie declined to comment.

NuGen, a joint venture between Toshiba and French utility company Engie, plans to build three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Moorside site on the coast of Cumbria and expects electricity generation to start in 2025.

NuGen is expected to have a generating capacity of up to 3.8 gigawatts when all three reactors are completed, accounting for around 7 percent of Britain’s total electricity demand.

The NuGen consortium is competing to build Britain's first new nuclear plant in a generation with French power utility EDF EDF.PA.

The French utility is planning the 18 billion pound ($24 billion) Hinkley Point C project in Somerset, southwest England, which is no longer certain to go ahead since the government of new British prime minister Theresa May has raised security issues over China’s involvement in the project.

Hitachi’s Horizon is another consortium which has proposed two new nuclear projects. Its Wylfa plant in Wales is expected to start up in the first half of the next decade.

Engie operates several nuclear plants in Belgium and is part of a consortium to build a nuclear plant in Turkey, but new Engie chief executive, Isabelle Kocher, wants to focus on renewable energy, energy efficiency and power networks.

Sources say both companies have been looking to reduce their stake in NuGen for several months, but low wholesale power prices and tough competition for ever-cheaper renewable energy have darkened the investment outlook for nuclear energy.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq in Paris, Karolin Schaps and Tina Bellon in London; Editing by Lina Saigol and Louise Heavens