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China to Build 'Safer' Nuclear Energy Reactor in Shandong Province


China plans to build a nuclear energy reactor with a new, safer technology and a European conglomerate is buying shares of a Chinese steel company.

A private Chinese business group - led by Huaneng Power International - says it plans to build China's first commercial nuclear power plant using so-called pebble-bed technology in China's eastern province of Shandong. The new design can only be used in smaller capacity reactors and is said to be more safe.

The Shandong reactor is the fifth planned nuclear power plant announced in the last three months. China is investing heavily in nuclear energy to meet its surging power demands.

Gary Chiu, power analyst at Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong, says China wants to reduce its heavy reliance on coal, which is polluting the environment.

"Currently, nuclear power accounts for less than one percent of total power generation and because nuclear power is more environmentally friendly than coal-fired power plants that's why they want to increase this percentage in the next 15 years," said Chiu.

Energy experts say China plans to quadruple the percentage of energy produced by nuclear power.

In other news from China, the European steel giant Arcelor has won approval by provincial authorities to buy a 38 percent stake in Laiwu Steel Corporation. The state-run company, based in Shandong Province, is the country's second-biggest producer of construction beams.

The deal still requires approval from China's central government.

Arcelor is trying to expand its global operations in an attempt to fend off a hostile take-over bid by the Indian-owned giant Mittal Steel.

The economy in China's special administrative region of Hong Kong is going strong. It grew a higher-than-expected 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005 - compared with a year earlier. Analysts credit a robust growth in exports and in services, such as tourism and transportation.

The Australian government rejected Singapore Airline's bid to fly the lucrative route between Australia and the United States.

The trans-pacific route is one of the most profitable ones for Australia's national carrier Qantas. The US-based United Airlines is the only other airline allowed to fly the route. Canberra said it was against Australia's interest to open up the route to further competition.

Singapore Airlines expressed disappointment saying the interests of the national carrier had won over national interests, free market competition and consumer choice.