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MInister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver (left) and Patrick Lamarre, President and CEO of SNC-Lavalin Nuclear Inc., announce SNC-Lavalin's acquisition of the Candu reactor division of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.Della Rollins For The Globe and Mail

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. signed formal agreements Thursday to begin work on the refurbishment of Argentina's 27-year-old Embalse Nuclear Generating Station.

SNC-Lavalin Nuclear Inc. will provide direct support until it completes the acquisition of AECL's Candu reactor division. Candu will then take full responsibility for the project.

The value of the work is about $440-million. The total refurbishment will cost more than $1.3-billion (U.S.) and take some five years to complete.

The retubing and refurbishment of the nuclear station's reactor will allow the power plant to operate another 25 to 30 years.

The Argentine operator will be the overall project manager and will directly carry out all reactor component procurement and oversee the on-site work.

AECL and Candu will provide key technologies and tools to support the retubing along with engineering for plant upgrades.

SNC-Lavalin executive vice-president Patrick Lamarre said the contract is a good example of the opportunities that lie ahead for Candu.

The federal government agreed in June to sell the nuclear operation's commercial division to SNC-Lavalin for $15-million (Canadian) plus future royalties.

SNC agreed to protect about 1,200 AECL jobs.

Mr. Lamarre said the Montreal-based engineering giant hopes to expand its involvement in Argentina's nuclear industry on this and future projects.

AECL president Hugh MacDiarmid said the Embalse project will provide years of work for employees of the Canadian nuclear industry and underlines the importance of Candu technology.

The Embalse Candu 6 reactor began commercial operation in January 1984. The single unit has a gross output of 648 MWe.

SNC-Lavalin is one of the leading engineering and construction groups in the world and a major player in the ownership of infrastructure, and in the provision of operations and maintenance services. It operates in some 100 countries around the world.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, SNC's shares gained $0.13 at $51.43 in morning trading.

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