Saving nuclear energy plants means saving jobs
Income inequality and the disappearance of a true middle class are seemingly unavoidable topics of national conversation, especially as we head into the presidential election. And rightfully so; now, more than ever, government affects the distribution of the nation’s prosperity. While there are many dynamics at play here, one area where policymakers and regulators have the ability to affect positive change is by ensuring that existing nuclear energy plants — and the hundreds of thousands of solid, middle-class jobs they provide — are preserved.
Our country currently faces an inflection point that may have long-term consequences on our nation’s energy future and economy. At that point is the discussion around whether and how to continue the operation of a number of nuclear energy plants that face premature closure due to market challenges. It’s worth noting that the challenges these plants face are largely brought about by the unintended consequences of market structure and government policies, not by nuclear energy’s fundamental business model.
The impact of these premature closures would be dire. The nuclear industry is a leading industry that drives jobs and economic growth across America. A typical U.S. nuclear plant employs between 500 and 700 workers in jobs that pay, on average, 36 percent above the prevailing local wage rate. And 36 percent of the U.S. nuclear energy workforce will be eligible to retire in 2016, opening up tens of thousands of job opportunities in the next two to four years for new labor force entrants. To top it off, a recent analysis showed that nuclear energy, while among the least expensive forms of electricity, is the most employment- and salary-intensive of all energy sources.