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Nuclear Energy: Where the Green Jobs Are

I wanted to share a note I received yesterday from my colleague David Bradish:
Last week for the first time ever, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published a news release estimating the number of green jobs that existed in the country in 2010 – 3.1 million. Below is the golden nugget on nuclear from the release:


In private industry, the utilities industry accounted for 65,700 GGS [Green Goods and Services] jobs, or 11.9 percent of total private utilities employment. Among the industries involved in private sector electric power generation, nuclear power had the highest GGS employment with 35,800 jobs in 2010. Hydroelectric power generation had 3,700 total private GGS jobs in 2010.

The other electric power generation industry, which includes electricity generated from biomass, sunlight, wind, and other renewable sources, had 4,700 GGS private sector jobs. Within this industry, electricity generated from wind had the highest employment with 2,200 jobs, followed by biomass with 1,100 jobs, geothermal with 600 jobs, and solar with 400 jobs.

To provide more background, there were a total of 52,082 jobs in the nuclear industry in 2010. Of this amount, BLS classified 35,800 as a green job (68% of nuclear’s total). For comparison, hydro employed 7,045 people in 2010 but only 53% counted as a green job. As well, wind, solar and other renewables employed 8,344 people in 2010 but only 56% counted as a green job. Below is how they describe their methodology:

BLS identified 333 industries from the 1,193 detailed industries in the 2007 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) that potentially provide goods and services that directly benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. These 333 industries, the GGS scope, consist of industries that may produce green goods and services within one or more of the following five groups:

1. Energy from renewable sources.
2. Energy efficiency equipment, appliances, buildings and vehicles,
and goods and services that improve the energy efficiency of buildings
and the efficiency of energy storage and distribution.
3. Pollution reduction and removal, greenhouse gas reduction, and
recycling and reuse goods and services.
4. Organic agriculture; sustainable forestry; and soil, water, and
wildlife conservation.
5. Governmental and regulatory administration; and education,
training, and advocacy goods and services.

The GGS scope was identified by BLS after consultations with industry groups, government agencies, stakeholders, and the public, which helped BLS identify industries that potentially provide green goods or services. Not every activity or product in the industries within the GGS scope is considered green. An establishment classified in one of these 333 NAICS industries may produce only green goods, both green and non-green goods, or only non-green goods. Only the employment associated with the production of green goods and services within these selected industries is counted as GGS jobs.

For more on this release, see the links below.

Press Release:
Very, very cool stuff. So, if you're a college graduate and you want to get a job in green energy, the best place for you to start is probably in the nuclear energy business. Over at The Atlantic, Jordan Weissman took a look at the numbers and had this to say:
“More than half of the ‘green jobs’ in utilities actually belong to the nuclear power industry -- an important source of zero emissions electricity to be sure, but not exactly what most environmentalists picture when they think of a 21st century green job.”
If that's really the case, perhaps those environmentalists need to think a little more broadly about what green energy is really all about. Just ask President Obama. The following is a brief excerpt from his speech yesterday at Hankuk University in Seoul, South Korea:
[L]et’s never forget the astonishing benefits that nuclear technology has brought to our lives. Nuclear technology helps make our food safe. It prevents disease in the developing world. It’s the high-tech medicine that treats cancer and finds new cures. And, of course, it’s the energy—the clean energy—that helps cut the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. Here in South Korea, you know this. As a leader in nuclear energy, you’ve shown the progress and prosperity that can be achieved when nations embrace peaceful nuclear energy and reject the development of nuclear arms.

With rising oil prices and a warming climate, nuclear energy will only become more important. That’s why, in the United States, we’ve restarted our nuclear industry as part of a comprehensive strategy to develop every energy source. We’ve supported the first new nuclear power plant in three decades. We’re investing in innovative technologies so we can build the next generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants. And we’re training the next generation of scientists and engineers who are going to unlock new technologies to carry us forward.


Joel Riddle said…
I think the percentages presented in this write-up are somewhat misrepresented. The statistics refer to private sector jobs.

Some nuclear jobs would not be considered private sector jobs (TVA, in particular).

Thus, the "68%" of nuclear jobs being classified as green jobs in this write-up and the subsequent implication that 32% of nuclear jobs would NOT be classified as green jobs is a misrepresentation. It is possible that essentially 100% of nuclear jobs would be considered green based on the BLS criteria.

There are likely many hydro-related jobs within non-private sector entities, as well.

Any time a percentage is quoted, I prefer the numbers to be from the same pools.

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