Two new nuclear power plants are planned for southern China's Guangdong and Fujian provinces, state-owned companies and official media said Thursday, as the country steps up construction to meet surging demand.

China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co. signed an agreement Wednesday with the city government in Shaoguan, north of the provincial capital, for a 100 billion yuan (US$12.5 billion; euro10.5 billion) nuclear plant, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, China National Nuclear Power Corp., or CNNP, announced it was teaming up with a major electricity producer, China Huadian Group, to build a nuclear power plant near Quanzhou, in Fujian province.

The new facility, in the town of Hui'an, may accommodate up to six 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors, the companies said in statements on their Web sites.

The state-owned companies said the plant was included in the country's latest five-year economic plan, indicating it has top-level approval.

The two companies are due to form a joint venture, with CNNP taking a controlling share and responsibility for building and operating the plant. China Huadian will participate in decision-making and project management, the statement said.

Technology for the new plant is to be decided by international bidding.

China has four nuclear power plants in operation and plans to open more than 30 others by 2020, raising the share of atomic power in total electricity generation from the current 2 percent to 6 percent. The strategy is meant both to close the gap between demand and supply and to cut back on use of heavily polluting coal-fired plants, especially in densely populated areas.

CNNP and Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding, which is 45-percent owned by CNNP, are the only companies authorized to build atomic power facilities in China. Major electricity providers, most of whose plants are coal-fired or hydroelectric, are seeking a stake in the fast growing nuclear energy market through tie-ups with those two companies.

Guangdong Nuclear Power is joining with another major electricity company, Datang International Power Generation Co., to build a separate nuclear facility in Ningde, another city in Fujian.

The projects will be the first nuclear plants for Fujian, which has long relied mainly hydroelectric power, a resource threatened in recent years by drought.