The pay is good, but opinions differ on the best opportunities
If you are a nuclear engineer or technician stand fast because you are in for a roller coaster ride with lots of switchbacks. Some people want you. Others don't. It all depends on what program you work on and what state you live in. Hang on because the ride is about to begin.
NRC sees shortage of trained nuclear workers
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there is a shortage of trained workers to build new nuclear power plants. This isn't a new story, but coming from the chairman of the NRC is obtains a new sense of urgency. University engineering departments with students in nuclear engineering programs take heed! Dale Klein, NRC chairman said,
"Where are we going to get the educated and skilled workers to safely run the current fleet (of reactors) over extended lifetimes and the potential nuclear plants of the future?. Where are they being educated? Where are they being trained?"
The U.S. government, energy experts and even some environmentalists see a revival of nuclear power as a clean energy alternative, but that resurgence may be held up by a lack of qualified workers.
Nuclear workers call the NRC. They have jobs now or know where they will be based on licensing applications.
Craig to DOE "snap it up" on GNEP
When it comes to nuclear fuel reprocessing, Idaho Senator Larry Craig, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee doesn't mince words. He told DOE officials this week they should stop "reinventing" reprocessing technology and just get on with the job. He was referring the the Department of Energy's Global Nuclear Energy Program (GNEP).
Craig pointed out the US is running well behind European countries when it comes to reprocessing methods. He said the US should snap things up because "some of the Europeans have a pretty good history" of dealing with the nonproliferation issues associated with reprocessing.
Craig has been an advocate of the GNEP program. There are two proposals for GNEP facilities in eastern Idaho. The Senator hasn't taken a public position on either of them, but if one is funded by the government it could bring 1,000s to jobs to the state.
If the feds do move quickly to fund the multi-billion dollar GNEP program, then they will be competing for the same scarce workers as the commercial nuclear electric power industry. Some of them already work in Idaho and have experience with reprocessing which took place at the Idaho lab until the 1990s.
Alvarez to DOE "walk away" from GNEP
On the other hand, a vocal critic of the GNEP program said this week Congress should stop all work on GNEP until DOE can provide credible estimates on wastes that would be produced by the program. Robert Alvarez said, "unprecedented amounts of long-lived radioactive wastes could be disposed in the near surface and pose increased contamination risks for thousands of years."
Alvarez was a senior level official with the Department of Energy during the Clinton Administration. He also worked on the staff of the Senate Committee on Government Affairs for then Senator John Glenn according to his bio at the Institute for Policy Studies which issued the report.
Maybe those scarce nuclear workers should keep their eyes on the commercial nuclear industry after all?
Fresno nuclear backers go for French recycling
Backers of a proposed nuclear power plant for Fresno, California, say they have an answer how to dispose of spent nuclear fuel form the plant. They will send it by ship to France to be reprocessed there thus avoiding the current at-reactor storage problem facing all other US nuclear power plants.
California currently has a law on the books banning new construction of nuclear power plants due the lack of a viable storage plan in the US for spent nuclear fuel. A group of Fresno businessmen want to put a referendum on the California 2008 ballot to overturn the ban. The referendum is a high risk venture because polls show voters are split down the middle with just 8% undecided on the issue. An effort to remove the law died in a legislative committee earlier this month in a vote along party lines with Democrats leading the opposition.
Scarce nuclear workers in California take note. Register to vote now.
Nuclear careers look lucrative
Reuters reports the nuclear engineers and technicians who landed their jobs in the 1970s are retiring and there are few trained to take their places. Carol Berrigan, who researches nuclear infrastructure for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's lobby group, told the wire service the coming labor shortage as a "looming trend." A study by the Institute found that half of the industry's employees were over 47 years old, while less than 8 percent of employees were younger than 32. Most Americans retire after turning 65, and the survey found more than a quarter of nuclear workers were already eligible to stop working.
The number of nuclear engineering majors at colleges around the country has risen to 1,800 last year from just 500 in 1998, according to the Energy Department, but that is still not enough to feed current needs. Salary surveys report the average starting salary for a nuclear engineer with a bachelors degree is $51,182, higher than many other areas. Forbes magazine recently listed plant operators as one of its top 10 best-paying blue-collar jobs, with an estimated income of $56,472.