Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Look at Work Force Issues

Late on Friday afternoon, The WSJ Energy Blog picked up on an issue we've been writing about for some time now, namely the challenges ahead for the industry as it faces of wave of retirements inside the nuclear work force:

The shrinking nuclear power workforce is “a big issue,” that the industry would have to resolve even if new nuclear plants weren’t on the drawing board, said Randy Hutchinson, senior vice president of nuclear business development for New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. “Building new plants, to some extent, compounds that problem,” he said.

About 27% of the nation’s nuclear power employees, about 15,600 workers, will be eligible to retire in the next five years, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s Washington lobbying group. Nearly half U.S. nuclear power employees are older than 47, and less than 8% are younger than 32, according to the NEI. Meanwhile, the number of university nuclear engineering programs has declined in the U.S. to about 29 from 65 in 1980, turning out fewer nuclear engineers.
But while the facts in the post might all be true -- after all, they came from NEI -- it still doesn't tell the whole story.

For starters, I suggest you read these two fact sheets produced by NEI:

Nuclear Energy Industry Initiatives Target Looming Shortage of Skilled Workers
Expanded Manufacturing Capacity Needed To Support New Nuclear Plant Construction

And as NRC Chairman Dale Klein said in a speech earlier this year, his agency is well aware of the challenge as well -- one that isn't limited to utilities.

Finally, be sure to check out our Careers and Education section at NEI.org.

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