Centrica (LSE: CNA) is not expected to take up its option of a 20 per cent state in building nuclear power plants in England, and is in effect pulling out of the UK’s new nuclear drive.

The British Gas owner stands to lose $314m from opting out of the programme as concern about costs of the projects now sees no British involvement in the three consortiums to build new nuclear plants to bridge the country’s impending energy gap.

Chief executive Sam Laidlaw is almost certain to confirm that Centrica will leave the project having spent virtually all its share of the $1.57bn in upfront costs that the companies had budgeted to the end of 2012.

Centrica is concerned about its capacity to meet the projects financial criteria, as the cost of reactors has gone up from $7bn to $11bn each. It is likely to focus on US expansion instead.

Centrica will retain its 20 per cent stake in eight existing nuclear power plants in the UK.

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