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Toshiba Corp. said a consortium led by its U.S. nuclear unit, Westinghouse Electric Co., will construct atomic power plants in China in multibillion dollar deals.

This marks the Toshiba group’s first nuclear plant construction contract in China, where the group expects increasing demand.

The consortium, also involving U.S. engineering company Shaw Group Inc., signed the contracts with four Chinese utilities to construct four nuclear plants in Zhejiang and Shandong provinces starting in 2009. The plants are expected to start operations in 2013 at the earliest.

Westinghouse will provide AP1000 advanced nuclear power plants based on the company’s standard pressurized water reactor technology, Toshiba said.

The move “will result in the first-ever deployment of advanced U.S. nuclear power technology in China,” Westinghouse President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Tritch said in a statement released by Toshiba.

Global industrial consolidation is accelerating in the nuclear power business, heralding burgeoning competition for contracts especially in the United States and Asia.

Toshiba’s rival, Hitachi Ltd., has strengthened its partnership with U.S. technology conglomerate General Electric Co., while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. has deepened its ties with Areva Group of France.

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