Rep. Chuck Fleischmann: Support for Nuclear Energy is Critical for the Future of the American Worker
Fleischmann: Support for Nuclear Energy is Critical for the Future of the American Worker
As millions of young people graduate around the nation, it is natural that they consider their next steps, especially in these times of extraordinary economic hardship and uncertainty. Generations of high school graduates have been wrongly led to believe that in order to obtain high wage employment, the only options is a four-year degree at a traditional college or university.
However, this pathway is not for everyone and it is certainly not the only way to financial prosperity. This type of thinking represents a one-size fits all solution that won’t actually provide more economic opportunity for Americans or boost our economy. What America needs is a renewed focus on skilled labor and the nuclear energy industry is well equipped to bring skilled technical labor back to our communities. Many technical colleges around the country already have the types of programs needed to train qualified technicians who serve as the backbone of one of our nation’s most critical industries.
In 2010, The New York Times profiled a nuclear power technician from Miami. Esperanza Lapaix, whose family emigrated from Cuba when she was a young child was able to buy a home with a husband and is,”[T]he first member of her family to own a house and have ‘a reliable, great-paying job,’” A story like Esperanza’s is the classic tale of the American Dream that was possible through the nuclear energy industry.
The average nuclear power plant employs between 500 and 1,000 workers, creating about $40 million in labor income each year. In addition to engineers and reactor operators, a plant’s workforce includes welders, pipefitters, masons, carpenters, and electricians – all positions that do not require four-year college degrees. Moreover, the construction of a nuclear plant can create several thousands of jobs during peak construction, primarily for craft laborers. These types of laborers are in demand all over the country and the nuclear industry is willing to pay for them; nuclear plant worker salaries are on average 20% higher than those of other electricity sources.
As China continues to rise as the U.S.’s top economic rival in the 21st century, nuclear energy, and nuclear power will be a large part of this rivalry. It is critical that the United States continues to support our own nuclear energy industry to ensure that the backbone of our economy, the American worker, is able to soar once again.