The first new site licence for a UK nuclear power station for 25 years has been granted for EDF's planned Hinkley Point plant.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation has granted the site licence to NNB Generation Company (NNB GenCo), a subsidiary of the French energy giant which wants to build a new nuclear power station at the Somerset site.
The independent regulator said the move did not give the company the go-ahead to start construction of the reactor, but was a significant step towards building the first of a new generation of nuclear power plants.
Chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman said: "Although a significant step, it is important to note that granting a nuclear site licence does not constitute permission to start construction of a nuclear safety-related plant.
"That requires permission from the Office for Nuclear Regulation, permits from the Environment Agency and planning consent from the Secretary of State."
The reactor design proposed for Hinkley Point C is also being assessed.
Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, EDF Energy managing director of nuclear new build, said: "The award of a nuclear site licence for Hinkley Point C is another crucial step forward as we ready ourselves to build the first new nuclear reactors in the UK for around 20 years, subject to our final investment decision."
He added: "The proposed new power station in Somerset will provide enough low carbon electricity to power five million homes and its construction will create around 25,000 jobs at site alone, giving a real boost to the economy.
"However, there is still a great deal of work to be done before this nationally significant infrastructure project can become a reality."