Companies that supply parts for Candu nuclear plants say a new contract to refurbish a reactor in Argentina will mean $100 million worth of business for them.

The newly privatized arm of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), Candu Energy, signed the $400-million deal with Argentina in August to overhaul a Candu reactor that has been providing electricity in Argentina since 1984.

Companies that make up the supply chain for Candu say the contract will keep skilled jobs in Canada.

The Babcock and Wilcox plant  in Cambridge, Ont., makes steam generators, one of the components in Candu nuclear reactors.

Babcock and Wilcox doesn't rely entirely on Candu for work, but company president Michael Lees says this contract means about 150,000 hours of work, much of it in high-paying engineering jobs.

"I would look at it as a way of sort of maintaining a steady workforce," Lees says. "We may have had to hire some people to fill in a few gaps, we may have avoided a few layoffs."

The contract in Argentina is the first one signed by AECL since the government announced it was selling the Crown company in 2007. Ron Oberth, president of the Organization of Candu Industries — representing the supply chain for Candus — says it took four years for the federal government to sell AECL's Candu division, and in the meantime, no new contracts could be signed. Oberth says that took a toll on business with countries such as Argentina.

"That strained relationships in what had been a long term partnership in the nuclear industry betweeen Argentina and Canada," he says.

He says many of the companies he represents are happy the work is starting to flow again.

"Some of the smaller ones were struggling, so I think some of them will see there is a strong opportunity for them to continue manufacturing to retain important high technology jobs."

Oberth says this contract is also a good bridge for the industry, while it waits for Ontario to decide which company will build one or both of two new nuclear reactors the province plans to build at the Darlington generating station in Clarington, 70 kilometres east of Toronto.