POLITICS

Fertilizer plant could replace nuclear plant in Quebec

10/09/2012 01:52 EDT | Updated 12/09/2012 05:12 EST
QUEBEC - A fraction of the workers facing unemployment with the imminent closure of an eastern Quebec nuclear power plant may eventually find new jobs in the fertilizer industry.

Plans have been announced for the construction of a $1.2-billion nitrogen fertilizer plant in Becancour, Que., with support from the provincial government.

The news comes shortly after the new Parti Quebecois government kept its promise to close the Gentilly-2 nuclear plant, which employs more than 700 workers.

Elaine Zakaib, the minister for industrial policy and the Quebec economic development bank, said the fertilizer plant would create 300 permanent jobs while 1,500 people would be hired during construction.

She described the creation of a new fertilizer plant as "a breath of fresh air" for the region.

"I can only be happy by the efforts which were put in place by our government to reassure the economic vitality of the region following the declassification of Gentilly-2," she said in a statement Tuesday.

Zakaib also pointed to an economic diversification fund of $200 million which has been set up to help the economy of the Becancour region.

The Marois government will spend $5 million on a pre-feasibility study for the fertilizer plant and Quebec is then expected to invest in the construction of the facility.

Spokeswoman Chantal Corbeil says the project is still several stages away from construction and the pre-feasibility study is only the first part. Another step will be a review by the BAPE, the provincial agency that will hold an environmental hearing.

"For the moment, there's only $5 million (from the province), but eventually we could invest more," Corbeil said.

Construction work is scheduled to begin in 2014 while production of fertilizer is targeted for 2017.

The plant will be operated by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) and La Coop Federee, a Quebec co-operative with more than 90,000 members.

IFFCO said it chose the Becancour industrial-park site because of its strategic location and its access to a port, railway and natural-gas pipeline.

Gentilly-2's operating licence runs out at the end of December and Hydro-Quebec will close it. The former Liberal government had planned to spend $2 billion to refurbish the reactor, which would extend its life by up to 30 years.

IFFCO, one of the biggest fertilizer cooperatives in the world, operates five production plants in India and holds interests in plants in Oman, Jordan and Senegal.