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LONDON (Reuters) - France's EDF and partner Centrica have received the first UK site licence for a new nuclear plant in 25 years, paving the way for Britain's first new nuclear station since 1995.
EDF was granted the licence on Monday for Hinkley Point in Somerset, where it intends to build two of the four nuclear power reactors it plans to construct in Britain.
The Office of Nuclear Regulation's (ONR) site licence clears a major regulatory hurdle for EDF and Centrica's NNB GenCo joint venture, which also requires approval for the reactor it plans to use, permits from the Environment Agency and planning consent from the government before it can start building.
EDF and engineering partner Areva are likely to receive the green light for the use of Areva's EPR nuclear reactor in Britain before the end of the year.
"EDF Energy is now on the brink of delivering new nuclear at Hinkley Point C with an infrastructure project similar in scale to the London Olympics, delivering significant benefits in terms of jobs, skills and economic growth, both locally and nationally," EDF Energy, the UK arm of the French utility, said in a statement.
The Hinkley Point project was expected to start operating in 2018, but regulatory delays after the Fukushima disaster in Japan have pushed back the start date. It is now unlikely to be up and running before 2020.
The approval review process has cost 8 million pounds to date, a fee which EDF and Centrica will cover, the ONR said.
The British government plans to support the use of nuclear power plants in future by reforming the country's electricity market in a way that will guarantee a minimum price for low-carbon power generation, including nuclear power.
The final details of the required legislation are expected to be published this week.
Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by David Goodman