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Hitachi, GE to jointly develop next-generation nuclear reactors

This photo taken in August 2011 shows the head office of Hitachi Ltd. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Hitachi Ltd. and General Electric Co. will jointly develop a new type of nuclear power plant with small modular reactors, sources close to the matter said Monday.

The two companies, which have been long-time partners in the nuclear business, aim to commercialize the reactors, said to be cheaper to produce and safer to run, in the 2030s, the sources said.

With construction of nuclear power plants stalled in Japan following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, Hitachi has been looking to expand its nuclear plant business overseas.

A small modular reactor can be mostly assembled at a plant and brought to a power plant site, cutting time and costs needed for the plant's construction work.

A conventional nuclear power plant usually costs about 1 trillion yen ($8.9 billion) to build. Construction in Japan would cost more after Japan raised safety requirements for nuclear reactors in the wake of the meltdowns of reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant triggered by the major earthquake and ensuing tsunami in March 2011.

The small modular reactor, though offering a smaller output, is designed to be set up underground to better contain radioactive materials in the event of an accident.

Hitachi has been building boiling water reactors, the same type of reactor that suffered meltdowns in Fukushima. None of those reactors have been restarted in Japan after going offline following the nuclear crisis.

The company had been planning to build two nuclear reactors in Britain but is currently reviewing the project due to expanding costs, expecting to make a final decision in 2019.

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