07/25/2014 10:21 EDT | Updated 09/24/2014 05:59 EDT

SNC-Lavalin's Candu partners to build Romanian nuclear reactors

Canadian nuclear firm Candu has signed a deal with a Chinese company to build two nuclear reactors in Romania.

Candu, now owned by Montreal engineering firm SNC Lavalin, has signed a co-operation agreement with China Nuclear Power Engineering Company Ltd. for the construction of two nuclear reactors at the Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant in Romania.

Along with existing Candu reactors there built in 1996 and 2007, the output from the two new reactors would be enough to supply 40 per cent of the energy needs for the country of 20 million people.

Preston Swafford, the CEO of Candu, said the exclusive deal will keep Canada's nuclear-engineering talent sharp. The deal is worth $1.6-billion to SNC Lavalin, but $6 billion overall, the companies said.

"It's a Canadian technology," Swafford said on Thursday. "You obviously have a continuum of skills that stay well-honed and ready to serve."

In a separate agreement, SNC-Lavalin has signed on with China National Nuclear Corporation in a deal that could eventually lead to the creation of a reactor in China that uses recycled nuclear fuel.

"We think that almost doubling the energy output for the same gram of uranium is a pretty powerful benefit to the environment as well as the communities we serve," Swafford said.

The reactors will reduce the amount of waste created by nuclear power, he noted.

China is on track to become the most nuclear-powered nation on earth, with plans to build more than 350 nuclear reactors in the coming decades.