HORIZON Nuclear Power has welcomed the successful clearance of a major regulatory hurdle towards permission for the use of a type of reactor at a new atomic plant in South Gloucestershire.

The Government has awarded what is known as a regulatory justification for use of the Hitachi-GE ABWR - advanced boiling water reactor - in the UK.

Horizon said the approval marked the first of the major permissions to be put in place as the company progresses its plans to build a new Oldbury B nuclear power station at Shepperdine. It also wants to build a station at Wylfa in North Wales.

It said it was a significant step forward in its proposals to build at least 5,400MW of new nuclear power generation plant across its two sites.

Horizon said completion of the justification process came after two rounds of public consultation, a ruling from the Secretary of State for energy and climate change and unanimous approval in both houses of parliament.

Energy secretary Ed Davey said: "There is a clear need for the generation of electricity by the nuclear reactor design to which the decision relates because of the contribution its deployment can make to the new nuclear programme through increased security of energy supplies and reduced carbon emissions.

"Against this, the radiological detriment to health from this nuclear reactor design throughout its lifetime and the management of associated waste will be low compared to overall levels of radiation and will be effectively controlled by the UK’s robust and effective regulatory regime."

Alan Raymant, Horizon's chief operating officer, said: “This is a major milestone in our journey to bring forward new secure, low carbon and affordable electricity for the UK and clearly highlights the strengths of our chosen technology."

Horizon will also require a range of other regulatory permissions and approvals, including those relating to safety and environmental issues, as well as planning consent before it can proceed with its projects.

The reactor design also requires various other approvals, including a positive outcome of the so-called general design assessment, carried out jointly by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency.