We’ve recently had the opportunity to tour the nuclear energy facility at Turkey Point, an experience that makes a compelling case for safe and secure operations. This only serves to reinforce our belief that nuclear energy is a vital part of both Florida and our nation’s energy and economic future.
Consider the facts: The current unemployment rate in Florida is 8.1 percent, and Miami-Dade County’s unemployment rate is 8.4 percent. At the same time, the nuclear industry is on the verge of a potential hiring boom, with a wave of forthcoming retirements and new plant construction now underway in three states.
The hard reality is that nearly half of the nuclear workforce is either eligible for retirement or anticipated to move on through natural turnover by 2016. This means that we can expect tens of thousands of jobs to build, maintain and support new and existing reactors. On average, the construction of one new reactor creates 1,400-1,800 high-paying jobs during peak construction and yields 400-700 jobs for operation over at least 60 years.
In addition to long-term, high-paying jobs, the nuclear energy industry supports and/or provides comprehensive training programs and scholarships. Engineering programs at the University of Florida and other campuses are well known and highly regarded. Miami Dade College and Indian River State College both offer two-year programs in radiation protection, plant operations and plant maintenance. Between the two, more than 300 graduates have come through the respective programs and received job offers from the local facilities and utilities.
Projects to grow America’s benefits from nuclear energy are under way in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, with an additional 10 permits for 16 reactors now under review and consideration. This is an exciting period of growth and progress in nuclear energy, and Florida can be a leader in this economic opportunity. It is imperative that a path forward be paved by thoughtful consideration and the facts, and the facts point to nuclear energy as a clean, safe and economically viable option for America and Florida.
Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA administrator, Washington, DC
Steven C. Bateman, mayor, Homestead