In Northwest Alabama there is growing interest in the prospect of new jobs tied to the Second Atomic Age. According to an article titled Nuclear future published on November 6, 2006, there is the potential for 90,000 new jobs associated with building new reactors during the period from 2007-2011. The source of that estimate, according to the article, is Dale Klein, the current director of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The article spends several paragraphs listing potential projects that will be located in areas close enough to the readership of the newspaper to be interesting to them, including TVA and Southern Company projects. After plenty of encouraging information, the author of the article then performs his journalistic duty and adds “balance” to the information by quoting Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) a man and a group that are well known for their opposition to nuclear power developments.
In general, I liked the overall tone of the article and decided to encourage the author to write more about the topic. Here is a copy of my letter to him.
November 7, 2006
Dear Mr. Sherer
I enjoyed reading your November 6 article titled “Nuclear Future”. I liked the way that you led with the opportunities that might be enabled by a new nuclear plant building cycle and placed the requisite journalistic “balancing” comments by Edwin Lyman near the bottom of the article.
Mr. Lyman is doing the equivalent of covering his eyes and ears and then saying he does not sense that there is a new nuclear power plant building boom coming in the near future.
I have been attending nuclear industry gatherings for a number of years; the enthusiasm that has been developing during the past 5 years is real and tangible. Companies are making strategic investments, building their work forces, renewing nearly forgotten skills, and laying the groundwork for site permit applications. There are already two designs that have received design certification by the NRC and there are three more that are in various stages of review. Worldwide, there are dozens of new designs that are being developed and marketed, some of those right here in the US.
The International Energy Agency is going to release a report tomorrow favoring nuclear power as part of a greenhouse gas mitigation strategy; the UK government has already released a similar report.
A number of pressures are coming together at the same time that all favor new nuclear power development including rising fossil fuel prices, increasing concerns about air pollution, rising energy demand in enormous countries like China and India, continued excellent performance of existing nuclear plants, and a recognition that there is still huge space for continued improvements in the technology. After all, humans have only known about fission for about 70 years; we have known about combustion, wind and solar energy for thousands of years.
You are right to encourage people from your local area to get excited about the jobs prospects. We will need all of the skilled workers that we can find that are willing to work carefully, follow procedures, and invest in developing new skills as the technology evolves.
Keep up the good work in sharing information with your readers. I encourage you keep the views of naysayers like the Union of Concerned Scientists in perspective. That organization has depended on opposition to nuclear power to support their fundraising efforts for many years – there are plenty of competitors of nuclear technology that quietly, but generously support their anti-nuclear propaganda.
Editor, Atomic Insights
I encourage you to also correspond with writers that seem to “get it” with regard to what is, and should be happening in the nuclear industry. We are definitely living in exciting times and need all of the help we can get to share what we know about the technology and the opportunities.