Guest Column: Nuclear investment means more jobs (now) and energy security (sooner)
By Bill Hite
A proven solution for immediate job creation recently came from President Obama and his administration—investment in nuclear energy. And immediate truly means just that. Bulldozers in Georgia are already on the move and making preparations. Long-awaited jobs in the skilled labor sector could materialize within months.
I commend the president for moving this agenda forward and was pleased to be personally invited to his recent speech on nuclear advancements. A broad jobs creation bill is no doubt needed to bring down unemployment in the economy, but let us not overlook this low-hanging fruit that is ripe for the picking. There are highly-skilled workers capable and available to begin these endeavors across the United States and even similar ones in Canada. And to know this investment offers the advantages of less dangerous pollutants in the air, lower costs of electricity and a greater security in national energy, you might as well tie this up with a big red bow.
Let’s restart the nuclear power industry after a lapse of nearly three decades. With the addition of Obama’s nuclear loan guarantee funding in his 2011 budget, we could begin development of seven to 10 new power plants. Include additional funding in future budgets, and you could see the 17 nuclear license applications for 26 reactors—made in only the last three years—slide through the bottleneck of securing funds for construction.
If each new plant promises to offer approximately 3,500 long-term on-site construction jobs and 800 permanent operations jobs, this is something worth further consideration. The number of jobs this will provide to the economy is significant, possibly unmatched growth by any one industry. This has the potential for spreading more than 70,000 new jobs across the country. As opposed to what some critics are saying about Obama’s stimulus package, no fine-tooth comb will be required to see where these jobs are created.
It is important to note this is not a bailout, nor direct funding, but a loan guarantee. After the term has been reached, we, the American public, will have been paid back with interest. No accumulation to the deficit, and tens of thousands of jobs created in the process. So, while experts are predicting electricity shortages, fossil fuel price increases, global warming and heavy metal emissions from fossil fuel use, I see clean energy, cheaper electricity and national energy security.
A significant achievement of the U.S. nuclear power industry over the last 20 years has been the increase in operating efficiency with improved maintenance. Generation IV reactors are in development to increase 100 to 300 times more energy yield from the same amount of nuclear fuel. Future designs of reactors are promised to eliminate almost all waste.
The president is reaching and receiving bipartisan agreements on nuclear energy. As part of the solution, the United Association will have a highly-skilled and trained workforce ready to take on building safe, clean energy.
It would be remiss to say there are no issues that need to be addressed should this begin a nuclear renaissance. But you would have to agree with our Commander-in-Chief when he said in his speech: “If we fail to invest in the technologies of tomorrow, then we’re going to be importing those technologies instead of exporting them. We will fall behind; jobs will be produced overseas, instead of here in the United States of America.” I, too, am not willing to accept this future.
We can whine about better times, or we can embrace this opportunity for new jobs and the future of our country on many fronts. What new development or technology didn’t have its problems or opposition in its infancy? Should we not continue to research a cure for cancer, even though it may take us another 20 years to finally develop it? New technological advances in nuclear energy will be able to address the needs that remain in this industry.
Let’s agree… to agree. Let’s put our neighbors and fellow workers back to work.
Bill Hite is general president of the United Association of Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada.
From the June 16-22, 2010 issue