The Japanese utility Tohoku Electric Power Co has received approval from the government’s Nuclear Safety Commission to build a new nuclear power plant in the Aomori Prefecture. The commission concluded that there were no safety problems associated with the construction of the plant, Dow Jones reports. The Minister of International Trade and Industry can now authorize work on the plant to proceed.

Construction of the Higashidori 1100 MWe light water reactor is expected to begin in December. The plant, located 631 km northeast of Tokyo, is due to start operating in July 2005.

The project was originally approved by the local assembly in Higashidori in 1965, but the project was delayed by opposition from local residents. That has now subsided. However anti-nuclear activists claim the site for the proposed plant is unsafe because of its proximity to two seismic faults.

Japan has 51 commercial nuclear reactors which supply around one third of the country’s power.