SHANGHAI (AP) - One of China's main nuclear power companies and the country's largest utility, China Huaneng Group, have launched a demonstration project that will use domestic technology based on knowhow first developed by Westinghouse.

The state-backed showcase project takes China a step forward in its effort to acquire advanced nuclear power technology of its own after decades of reliance on foreign expertise.

China's State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., also known as SNPTC, will hold a 55 percent stake in the 300 million yuan ($44 million) venture set up to build and operate the plant, with Huaneng holding the other 45 percent, SNPTC said in a statement on its Web site.

The project, to be located in Weihai, a coastal city in eastern China's Shandong province, will begin construction in April 2013 and start operating by late 2017, it said.

Government plans call for nuclear plants to supply 4 percent to 6 percent of China's power needs by 2020, up from about 2 percent currently. But some estimates of planned capacity run much higher.

The country now has six nuclear plants with more under construction.

Westinghouse, which was acquired by Japan's Toshiba Group in 2006, has received orders worth 1 trillion yen ($9.8 billion) to build four of its third-generation AP1000 nuclear reactors in China.

The company, headquartered in the Pittsburgh suburb of Monroeville, Pa., committed to hand over AP1000 technology to SNPTC as the basis for China's efforts to develop its own know-how.

China expects the demonstration power plant to have a single generating unit with an annual capacity of 1.4 gigawatts in its first phase and another 1.7 gigawatt unit in its second phase. China's Three Gorges Dam, the world's biggest hydroelectric plant, has 18,200 gigawatts of generating capacity.