Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A Diversity of Opinion

Maudine-Cooper-400 Over in Investors Business Daily, Bernard Weinstein takes positive note of Republican gains in Congress and what he thinks is a concomitant better outlook for nuclear energy, but expands beyond politics:

The case for nuclear energy remains stronger than ever because it is an efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels that doesn't emit greenhouse gases or particulates. In addition, production costs don't fluctuate as they do with fossil fuel plants.

Public sentiment in favor of nuclear energy has been rising, and even some environmental groups have started to embrace nuclear because of its minimal carbon footprint. At the same time, President Obama has voiced support for a revival of America's nuclear power industry and has also proposed increasing federal loan guarantees for new plants from $18.5 billion to $54 billion.

All true. Weinstein also notes the rise in interest internationally:

South Korea, currently generating 40% of its electricity from nuclear, is adding eight reactors to its power grid. Taiwan is building two new plants to boost nuclear's contribution to 40% of electricity production. Great Britain, Italy, Finland, China and India are also developing new nuclear power plants.

Even countries in the oil-rich Middle East are gearing up to build reactors. France, with the most nuclear-intensive power system in the world at 80%, is now building plants in Great Britain, Italy, Finland, China and India. Meanwhile, the Russians have signed nuclear deals with China, Iran, India, Nigeria and Venezuela.

There are only a few comments on the op-ed so far, but they’re all quite positive and, as important, engaged with the topic. Weinstein is associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute and an adjunct professor of business economics in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, so he knows whereof he speaks.

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Over at Black Entertainment Television, whose website has a notably interesting news section, former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Maudine Cooper, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League, focus on the job opportunities afforded by the nuclear energy industry:

Unlike many sectors that are contracting, there are numerous employment opportunities available in the energy sector, especially in nuclear energy. During the past few years, more than 15,000 new jobs have been created in anticipation of building new nuclear projects around the country. These jobs are well-paying, with university, community college and labor training programs that are preparing the next-generation workforce in many disciplines.

Whitman is co-chairman of CASEnergy, the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which recently hosted a summit concerning diversity in the nuclear work force and which Cooper attended:

There is a broad coalition ready to support nuclear expansion and leverage the benefits derived from more nuclear energy plants. We recently joined more than 50 leaders from business and academia from within the Hispanic and African-American communities along with labor and industry representatives to focus on how safe, reliable nuclear energy facilities can benefit minority communities.

It’s a terrific op-ed, right on point:

Each plant requires 400 to 700 workers to run it. Additional training for some of those jobs can take as little as two years, with the prospect of an immediate payoff.  Average annual starting salaries in the industry range from $65,000 to $80,000. What’s more, unlike many positions in today’s economy, jobs at nuclear plants can’t be shipped overseas. And the nuclear energy industry is hiring now: nearly 40 percent of the nuclear energy workforce will be eligible to retire over the next five years, meaning the industry will need to hire as many as 20,000 workers to replace those that leave.

Of course, these jobs are available to all comers, but there are notable opportunities for minority workers:

New jobs in the nuclear energy sector are available to minority communities through the pursuit of the workforce training and feeder programs available at historically black institutions such as Clark Atlanta University and South Carolina State University. Industry and labor strive for a diverse workforce and supplier network, and programs are in place to help achieve this goal.

That reference to Clark Atlanta University is particularly germane, as Plant Vogtle down in central Georgia is ramping up to build and staff two new reactors in the next few years.

Terrific article – do read the whole thing.

Maudine Cooper.

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