The future of nuclear power in the United States bright based on the experience that I have gained in working in one of the firms. I am highly optimistic about the future employment trends and opportunities in the nuclear sector based on the Global Energy Index Talent (GETI) that indicated that there is an increasing agreement between the hiring managers and employees ("SNC-Lavalin targets Polish nuclear opportunities," 2010). However, I do have to confess that the future of the nuclear power is worrisome and frightening. Presently, there is a bit of mismatch between the employees and the employers in connection to pay rise, and other fundamental factors that contribute to the growth of the industry. According to GETI, the nuclear industry is facing significant human resources challenges, but the sector can still compete for talent.
According to my recent research, there have been several plants that are close to shutting down or have almost shut down in past years. From the years 2013 2025, there has and will be an estimated of 14 reactors closing. There also has been a substantial amount of debate on whether the cost to run a plant versus the energy gained from it was worth the money. Other reasons that affect the nuclear industry has to do with all the previous incidents/tragedies, that affected the job opportunities nowadays. For example, the Fukushima disaster back in 2011 has put in jeopardy job opportunities with nuclear power which has had some adverse effects on employment trends. The catastrophe in Japan instantly affected the future of nuclear power throughout the world. This tragedy came after an extended period where the industry seemed to have become safer since Chernobyl in 1986.
Disasters in the industry make it very difficult for the government to approve the new construction of a multiple billion dollar plants which will drive down property prices in local communities. Though I must admit, the more I was in depth with this research, the more I came to realize that with these incidents that have happened in the past, the desire for clean energy has been a substantial reason for supporting nuclear. That being said, I found out that in the nuclear industry for nuclear job opportunities have been in high demand as well. For example, Westinghouse Nuclear explains that the nuclear industry is projected to hire more than 20,000 workers over the next five years. That is if the four reactor plants being built in China have success, then surely that would help the Westinghouse Nuclear company which is now struggling and perhaps help convince the U.S that more reactor plants should be built. Also, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), "about half of the nuclear industry's workforce will be entitled to retire within the next ten years or so.". Assuming that most of those eligible to retire, will necessarily do it, would create a few more job opportunities to open up. Due to the large percentage of people approaching retiring, companies like the NEI and other large corporations began to create partnerships with universities and technical institutes to train the future nuclear workforce. From what I understand the research it seems like there would be potential opportunities for Nuclear Engineering Technology undergraduates to work at existing nuclear plants or the new SCE&G, Georgia Power.
NRC stated that 63 of the operating reactors had renewed their operating licenses to run an extra 20-40 years beyond the original 40-year license, and application to renew the operating licenses of another 21 reactors are pending (Akhtar, 2012). The industry is now working to define the requirements for a second renewal period that could allow operation beyond 60 years. There are four new Westinghouse AP 1000 design reactors in the construction phase, two at the V.C. Summer Nuclear site in SC operated by SCE&G, and two at the Vogtle Nuclear site in Georgia operated by Southern Nuclear. Currently, NRC is reviewing twelve applications for licensing of new nuclear power plants. With the newly built reactors and the extended licenses of the currently operating plants, the need for workers will stress the requirements for a working plant license to operate under the current regulations. With the Department of Energy (DOE) and the NRC setting up grants for companies to design and test newer style smaller package reactors with a much smaller footprint, the need for more qualified and trained personnel will grow.
A graph of re-employment rates after displacement in nuclear industries
Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/employment/displaced-workers.htmA graph of employed population in nuclear industries.
Retrieved from https://blog.euromonitor.com/2012/05/ukraines-population-in-rapid-decline.html
These programs were designed for and by SCE&G and DUKE ENERGY and the local colleges near Columbia and Florence to offset the need for skilled and trained technicians needed to operate the plants and local supply companies to support the plants' necessary equipment. Not only do the operating plants need to have a steady stream of qualified personnel, but also companies that supply equipment and services to assist in repairs during operation and shutdown maintenance outages (Westinghouse, 2017). Companies such as Westinghouse, Areva, BHI Energy, Core-Vis, General Electric, just to name a few will need to have technicians to support the industry.
Nuclear industry should adopt various challenges to increase their employment opportunities. For instance, the nuclear industry must improve their wages to maintain its staff and attract more employees, particularly in countries that have nuclear expansion initiatives. The industry has an aging workforce; thus it has to recruit new workers and offer health and retirement benefits packages to the new employees (Nuclear Energy Institute, 2017). The industries that are outside North America should utilize their strong expatriate component to recruit employees across the border. The salary of the employees should be increased at an interval to meet their growing demands and increase their motivation.
ConclusionIn conclusion, I believe that to some folks the nuclear future may not look as bright as other industries. However, in my personal opinion; with the higher starting pay, the support needed to run a plant, and with the longevity of the support that is required by technicians, the nuclear production field will be around and continue to be active in the future.
Akhtar, M., Corrigan, E., & Reitter, T. (2012). Creating Jobs through Energy Efficiency Using Wisconsin's Successful Focus on Energy Program. doi:10.2172/1080611
Index. (1982). Energy: A Global Outlook, 381-388. doi:10.1016/b978-0-08-027293-1.50038-3
Nuclear Energy Institute. (2017). Be a Part of a Growing Workforce. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from https://www.nei.org/Careers-Education/Careers-in-the-Nuclear-Industry/Be-a-Part-of-a-Growing-WorkforceSNC-Lavalin targets Polish nuclear opportunities. (2010). Pump Industry Analyst, 2010(6), 4. doi:10.1016/s1359-6128(10)70231-7
Westinghouse. (2017). Nuclear Energy Jobs. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from http://www.westinghousenuclear.com/Why-Nuclear/Jobs
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