Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The 600 and the Economic Benefits of Duane Arnold

Duane_ArnoldOne of the things that nuclear energy plants do well is what factories and plants of all kinds have always done – facilitate a middle class. It’s more complex than that, of course, and we have to deal with the history of unions, the G.I. Bill, entrepreneurship and and a lot else before we get to all the factors that have contributed to the growth and maintenance of a thriving middle class. But let’s just focus on factories, because nuclear facilities are factories of a kind and because a new report focuses on the economic benefits of just one such facility: Iowa’s Duane Arnold Energy Center.

The whole report is worth a look, especially because it’s a quick, comprehensible read with a lot of tables to explore but also because it’s chalk full of good data for nuclear advocates. Duane Arnold, like any nuclear plant, is a virtual city of industry and its economic impacts are broad and comprehensive. Explore the press release and the report itself for lots of nuclear goodness. For this post, let’s zero in on employment At Duane Arnold.

Besides helping to stabilize electricity costs in Iowa, Duane Arnold has contributed significantly to job creation. The plant employs nearly 600 full-time workers, approximately 175 of whom reside within Benton County and nearly 400 within Linn County.

Jobs provided by the plant are also typically higher-paying than most jobs in the area. Full-time Duane Arnold employees who live in Benton County earn, on average, about $75,680 per year. This is substantially higher than the average earnings of workers in the county, which is about $32,060 per year.

Full-time plant employees who live in Linn County earn, on average, about $82,620 per year, compared to the average earnings of workers in the county, which is about $45,690 per year.

Linn County has about 211,00 people in it, largely due to Cedar Rapids and its suburbs. Benton County is more typical of Iowa. It’s about the same size as Linn County but has 26,000 people in it.

Clearly, the Duane Arnold workers are not numerous enough to overwhelm their communities with their presence, but they add considerably to the tax base – especially since many have no doubt bought homes and are raising families – and of course, spend money.

This is attractive to Linn County and likely very attractive to less populous Benton County. The report talks about these economic “ripple” effects, but more in relation to the facility than its workers.

It’s a important concept because it broadens the economic impact beyond just a direct layout of cash for salaries and service.

The economic investment of Duane Arnold in the local community has a multiplier effect across nearly every sector of its economy. While the plant’s direct output value was $200 million, the study found the total impact on the local region was $246 million. That puts the output multiplier at 1.23, so for every dollar of output from Duane Arnold, the local economy produced $1.23.

The report expands this focus to Iowa and the country. It’s all valuable information. For this post, though, I wanted to make sure that one of the most positive social benefits of nuclear energy – and, honestly, of any large industrial endeavor – is not overlooked. That’s the value of those 600 employees – the fact that they live in Linn and Benton Counties out in the middle (well, in the northeast quadrant anyway) of Iowa means that the state has a strong energy profile and is more than doing its part to generate clean electricity.

“Duane Arnold continues to reliably deliver tremendous value for Eastern Iowa and our entire state,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. “The plant is a key asset as Iowa strives to become more energy independent. I have long been a supporter of the facility and the hundreds of Iowans who work here.”

As well he should be.

And that’s just one plant in one state. Imagine all the multipliers at work across the whole fleet.

I haven’t really seen a cost comparison of different electricity generators in the terms discussed in this report, so it’s sheer gall of me to suggest that the nature of nuclear energy plants make them better and more beneficial participants in the lives of their communities than other sources. I wouldn’t be too upset if solar or coal came out a little better – we’re all friends after all – but let’s be nuclear chauvinists just this once. 

* We like the sound of the 600, but Duane Arnold also brings in about 1500 workers for outages, so the plant can be quite a beehive of activity. The 2100, though, doesn’t have quite the same Spartan ring to it.

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