Plans for a fleet of new nuclear power stations received a massive boost when Japanese engineering giant Hitachi took over a deal to build two power plants which could be feeding electricity into the national grid in the first half of the 2020s.
The £700 million deal will create thousands of jobs for construction workers, engineers and other skilled employees, and will spark a multibillion-pound investment in the nuclear industry.
Hitachi is buying Horizon Nuclear Power, which has the rights to build reactors at Wylfa on Anglesey, North Wales, and Oldbury in Gloucestershire, from its German owners E.ON and RWE npower. The Government and unions welcomed the deal, but green campaigners described it as a "risky and expensive gamble".
The new facilities are expected to generate power to up to 14 million homes over 60 years. Up to 6,000 jobs are expected to be created during construction at each site, with a further 1,000 permanent jobs at both locations once operational.
Hitachi and ministers played down safety fears in the wake of the tragedy in Fukushima, pointing to the UK's strong regulatory regime and the company's track record in building safe nuclear plants.
Tatsuro Ishizuka, vice president of Hitachi, said the company would invest billions of pounds in UK nuclear operations, adding: "Our aim is to build safe nuclear power stations, on time and on budget, to provide long-term, affordable energy."
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said it was a "big deal" for Hitachi and the UK's energy sector, which proved that the coalition's energy strategy was working. Mr Davey said he was "extremely happy" that a Japanese company had bought Horizon, paying tribute to the way the industry had dealt with the Fukushima disaster.
Welsh Secretary David Jones insisted that the conditions as well as the design of the reactor in Anglesey were distinctly different from the one in Japan. "You have to remember that there were specific conditions in Fukushima; for example, the seismic conditions, which don't apply in Wales," he told BBC Wales.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "It will support up to 12,000 jobs during construction and thousands more permanent highly skilled roles once the new power plants are operational, as well as stimulating exciting new industrial investments in the UK's nuclear supply chain."
But Friends of the Earth's Guy Shrubsole said: "This is a risky and expensive gamble for Hitachi that other energy firms are unwilling to take - and contrary to the promises the coalition has made, the public will end up funding it."