10/09/2012 01:26 EDT | Updated 12/09/2012 05:12 EST

New jobs for Bécancour as residents brace for Gentilly-2 closure

Residents of a central Quebec city facing an uphill economic struggle with the closing of the Gentilly-2 nuclear plant got some relief today with the announcement of a billion-dollar new factory that will create hundreds of jobs.

The province officially announced the plans for the project, a fertilizer factory slated for construction in Bécancour, this morning.

The fertilizer plant project will cost about $1.2 billion and will be operated by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) and Quebec's Coop Fédérée, which has committed to acquiring close to 40 per cent of the annual production of the plant.

The rest will be distributed to Canadian and U.S. markets.

The nitrogen plant still needs to pass final approval after an environmental review.

The Parti Québécois government announced the closure of the Gentilly-2 plant last week, a plan that will put about 800 people out of work.

According to the IFFO, the new factory will employ about 200 people permanently, and the construction of the plant will create about 500 temporary jobs.

IFFCO already operates five other similar plants around the world.

Different skills needed

Jean-Denis Girard, president the Coeur-du-Québec chamber of commerce and industry, said the jobs created wouldn't be comparable to the specialized jobs that will be lost at the nuclear plant.

"The jobs are completely different," he said. "It takes really specialized training. So the employees of Gentilly-2 can't just go apply at this plant. It's not at all the same skills they're looking for."

Yves-François Blanchet, minister responsible for central Quebec, said the salary level for the new jobs isn't known. However, he described the work as "quality jobs."

He said more discussions are underway to determine what other businesses could be part of the plan to "diversify" the region's economy and bring more industry to the region's industrial park.

"We do not presume what will be the conditions of the jobs, but we're enthusiastic that the results for the region will be better than what they had with Gentilly-2," he said.

If the plant plans pass the approval process, construction is expected to start in 2014 and production in 2017.

The provincial government is paying for a $5 million feasibility study.