After all, it’s been a long time since an American nuclear plant has been built and a lot of the action moved overseas - to France and Japan, in particular. But it’s not as though America doesn’t have a work force with considerable skill at this type of work – hmm! where might that be?
Michigan needs to get on the nuclear power train because it's getting ready to leave the station -- and take the jobs with it.
No, this isn't a call to green-light yet another nuke plant here. It's a reminder that the Big Mitten still has the ability to make things. Climate-change politics and surging demand for electricity around the world are powering a nuclear renaissance, and states like Michigan -- deep in engineering expertise, surplus industrial capacity and an established transportation infrastructure -- could get a piece of that multi-billion dollar business.
This is from columnist Daniel Howes at the Detroit News. If he coined the term The Big Mitten, points to him. More points for an excellent, though very obvious, suggestion. But:
"I can't make Michigan become a key supplier of nuclear components," Dan Roderick, senior vice president for nuclear plant projects at GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Inc., told a "nuclear renaissance" seminar this week organized by DTE Energy Corp. "You can. How much of this do you want? Someone's going to come and get it."
Howes further makes the case:
The Environmental Protection Agency predicts the nation will need to build 187 new nuclear reactors, partly to replace existing ones that have reached the end of their functional lives and partly to meet the expanding power needs of a deeply electrified society. Add electrified transportation, and the demand grows even more.
"We've got available capacity and available skills" in Michigan, says Gerry Anderson, chief operating officer of DTE Energy. "If we want to stake a leadership position, we've got to move now."
DTE Energy certainly sees the opportunity, so we paid a visit over there to see what they’re up to. Here DTE makes the pitch:
Michigan has the transportation infrastructure to move parts anywhere in the world ... and we have the engineering and manufacturing capability to meet the needs of the nuclear power industry as it grows globally. We need to leverage these resources now to stake a leadership position for Michigan as a supply hub to this industry.
And it looks like it wants to get the ball rolling:
If your Michigan business is interested in becoming a nuclear construction and/or maintenance supplier, we encourage you to complete and submit this pre-qualification survey.*
It’s a seven-page form, very detailed and seemingly aimed at retrofitting existing factories rather than building new ones. But you’ve got to start somewhere. Let’s see if – or rather, when - some ambitious entrepreneurs in Michigan step up.
The Detroit skyline.