EDF has decided to press ahead with building a new £18 billion nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset - the first new nuclear plant to be built in the UK in 20 years.
The French energy giant made the final investment decision at a board meeting last night, clearing the way for the project to go ahead.
Reports said the board voted by ten to seven in favour. EDF in the UK made no immediate comment.
A director opposed to the construction of Hinkley Point C resigned before the board met.
Gerard Magnin said in his resignation letter that Hinkley Point was “very risky”.
He did not attend the board meeting, leaving 17 directors to make the crucial decision.
Critics have warned of environmental damage and potential escalating costs.
They are also concerned that the plant is being built by foreign governments. One third of the cost is being provided by Chinese investors.
EDF hopes to have more than 2,500 workers on site by next year.
Nick Baveystock, Institution of Civil Engineers director general, welcomed the news and said: “The Hinkley decision is a major step forward, and we hope it will be the first of a fleet of new nuclear power stations. The decision comes at a critical time, demonstrating confidence in the infrastructure sector and in the UK as a place to invest.”
John Sauven, Greenpeace executive director, said: “This deal was more riven with dissension in the EDF board than anyone expected. It’s unprecedented division and far closer than predicted.
“Countless experts have warned that for British families this power station will be terrible value for money. This is a bitter pill to swallow for hard up people who have been told that the Government is trying to keep bills down while dealing with energy security and lowering carbon emissions.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “EDF’s announcement means thousands of new jobs and a much-needed economic boost to the region.
“This is exactly the kind of major investment we need following the vote to leave the EU. We face serious economic challenges, so projects which bring investment, certainty, and good-quality employment are crucial.”