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Resurgence in American Nuclear Industry To Start in Ga., Says Energy Chief

SecretaryChu_TomFanning_PlantVogtleTour_2-15-2012In case you missed the tweets from @SouthernCompany or @EnergyPressSec yesterday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu  toured the site where two new reactors are being built at Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Ga. Reconfirming his commitment to nuclear energy, the Nobel Laureate spoke to the more than 500 workers already on site on the need to build new nuclear plants to create jobs for American workers and boost U.S. competitiveness.

“In his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined a blueprint for an American economy that is built to last and develops every available source of American energy,” said Secretary Chu. “Nuclear power is an important part of that blueprint. The work being done in Georgia and at research organizations like Oak Ridge National Laboratory is helping restore American leadership in the global race for the nuclear energy jobs of tomorrow.”

Just how many new jobs is Secretary Chu talking about? Business Week says:

About 1,700 workers are already on the job site and plant managers say that number will grow to nearly 5,000 at the peak of construction. Once the completed units go online, they will employ about 800 permanent workers.

Those numbers only capture the direct jobs from the project, but indirectly, Business Week explains that constructing the two new reactors means a lot more people coming to the area, consuming more goods and services at local businesses. Take, for example, Allen DeLaigle:

"Plant Vogtle has pretty well saved Burke County," said Allen DeLaigle, who owns and manages an RV park with his twin brother about 4 miles from the nuclear plant.

Since site preparation ramped up for the new units, DeLaigle's park has filled about 90 of its 151 spaces with RVs and campers owned by workers coming in from other states such as Alabama and Mississippi, West Virginia and Ohio.

Or Robin Baxley:

Robin Baxley, owner of a Waynesboro office supply store, added two new employees to keep up with deliveries of pens, paper, marker boards and thumb drives to the modular offices set up on the construction site. Her business also supplied the cubicles, desks and file cabinets for many of those temporary offices

"They helped us make it through the economic downturn," Baxley said. "Office furniture is not the first thing people buy when they can hardly make payroll."

The project also will create approximately 35,000 jobs for suppliers and manufacturers, which is why groups like the National Association of Manufacturers wholeheartedly support the project:

Manufacturers use one-third of the energy consumed in the Unites States, so building new reliable sources of energy is essential to our competitiveness. Building new nuclear power plants also means the creation of quality jobs for Americans at a time when we need them the most. The Vogtle plant alone will create 5,000 new jobs and will have a tremendous positive impact for the many jobs in the nuclear energy supply chain. 

The amount of jobs this project is creating has not gone unnoticed by the public. In fact, on the day of the announcement, I took a phone call from a member of the public asking where he could find information online to apply for a job. I also saw comments like this one on Twitter:

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If the overall goal is to create new jobs, make America more competitive and invest in an emission-free, domestic energy source, then this is the way to do it, said Secretary Chu on the tour:

“America has the opportunity to lead the world in clean energy technologies and to provide a foundation for our future prosperity. What you are doing here at Vogtle will help us compete in the global clean energy race and provide domestic, clean power to U.S. homes.”

During his visit to the site, Secretary Chu announced a funding opportunity of up to $10 million for research and development toward advanced nuclear reactor and fuel cycle technologies and also announced that the agency will be putting together an internal working group—chaired by Peter Lyons—to recommend a nuclear waste strategy to the secretary by the summer.

Continuing with his busy week, today the secretary testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee on the agency’s fiscal year 2013 budget request. (See the committee’s archived webcast and Secretary Chu’s testimony for more information.)

Photo: Southern Co.’s Tom Fanning and Energy Secretary Steven Chu on a tour of the Plant Vogtle site. Photo courtesy of Southern Co.

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