One sure thing for future employment is in nuclear.  Now with three decades past the partial meltdown of a reactor at Three Mile Island and further expansion of nuclear power at a standstill, years of stagnant hiring comes to, as the American Physical Society, an independent group of physicists put it, “a greatly reduced interest among undergraduates in nuclear science and engineering programs.  This quote is from a recent report by the Society finding that the number of college nuclear engineering programs has dropped from 66 in the early 1980s to 30 in 2008. (page 4 of the pdf file)

Nuclear energy as produces 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and is largest source of emission-free electricity.  Many people in the nuclear power industry have recognized the potential work force problem and are taking new steps to help answer those questions about pursuing a career in the field.

Meanwhile, scary as it seems, the nuclear industry is preparing for an eventual shortage of workers.  For thirty years the industry employed a very stable work force and not much growth, there wasn’t much growth within the industry, and thus, not much hiring.

A large reactor facility offers 400 to 700 positions once the plants are up and running, according to statistics from the Nuclear Energy Institute, which contends that nuclear plants generate about $40 million each year in payroll.

The interest in attracting know-how and education is growing into action.  For example this past November Entergy New Orleans, a subsidiary of the New Orleans-based power provider Entergy Corp., hosted a free, three-hour workshop on nuclear power production for Orleans Parish public school math and science teachers. The program, called Power Path to Nuclear Energy, offered training, curriculum materials and the potential for bringing guest lecturers into the classroom in an effort to spur an early interest in nuclear science in sixth through 12th-grade students.

Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station - An Entergy Corp Property. Click image for the largest view.

That takes the competition for intellect down to the 11 year olds.  Entergy has a lot at stake, its the second-largest nuclear power generator in the U.S., and it is among more than a dozen companies considering building upward of 30 new nuclear plants, including one in Louisiana. Entergy is pressing on even though its plan was put on hold last year after the company failed to strike a deal with the manufacturer of its 1st choice reactor.

Even if companies don’t get the kid, the materials and assistance help raise knowledge and awareness about nuclear power over an important part of the community – the youth.  John Wheeler, head of work force development for Entergy quoted in an article in The Times Picayune said,  “You’re reinforcing math and science skills at the same time. It would be great if a student chose to go into the nuclear power industry, but if they choose to do something else with their career, eventually, if it’s in the science and technology field, that’s good for everybody.”

Louisiana State University is also in the effort with one of the remaining collegiate programs.  The university has began to offer students the opportunity to enroll in nuclear engineering as a minor, a move intended to provide training in specialized skills like nuclear power plant design and operation. So far, 13 students have enrolled, according to Warren Waggenspack, Associate Dean for Academic Programs at LSU’s College of Engineering.

In an understatement Waggenspack says, “The technology has advanced significantly in the intervening years. There are good engineering challenges that some of these kids want to address in providing good, safe nuclear power.”

Wheeler points out another issue, “We’re still going to have to replace the existing work force that is aging out.”  Most U.S. reactors facilities are old enough that the operating staff is closing in on their retirement years while the facilities have another generation of useful life remaining.

But even though Louisiana has caught on, the nuclear industry could be poised for enormous growth, if only government would get out of the way or reverse course and help with growth.  That may be far too much to expect with the current Federal administration, their choice of the NRC chairman shows a total lack of sense for economic growth, jobs, energy security or public safety.

Change is likely two years away, a very short time in policy, but 10 percent or so of a career. Waiting for policy change is a huge waste of U.S. intellectual power, especially as much of the research for a massive renaissance is already on the shelf.

It’s very encouraging to see Entergy getting out there.  That kind of self interested leadership is what will play a major role in reversing the policy course.  Polls show the population has adjusted to nuclear power, even as most are still in the dark about the potential, and realize the importance to the national energy security.

At the same time, right now, the rest of the world is charging on with reactor construction contracts while the U.S., with doubtless the best technology available dawdles and dallies about getting nothing done.  It’s a classic case of bureaucratic ineptitude from well-intentioned governmental interference.


Comments

11 Comments so far

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  2. World Spinner on December 29, 2010 8:23 AM

    Good Energy Jobs in the Future | New Energy and Fuel…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  3. Musson on December 29, 2010 9:59 AM

    This shortage underscores the need for standardized reactor design. Each reactor cannot be a one off build.

    I cannot help but feel that we are approaching a reinessance for nuclear energy. Maybe I am just optimistic.

    But, the pessimist in me says that without it, we are going to freeze in the dark.

  4. Gerrys Blog » Blog Archive » Online Marketing Trends for 2011 on December 29, 2010 11:20 AM

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  5. nuclear thermal rocket | high temperatures | nuclear reactor | melting point | reactor core | share types | core design | solid core | thermal | Nuclear | Rocket on January 1, 2011 8:00 PM

    […] Types of Nuclear Thermal Rockets A nuclear thermal rocket can be categorized by the construction of its reactor, which can range from a relatively simple solid reactor up to a much more complicated but more efficient reactor with a gas core. Solid core The most traditional type uses a conventional (albeit light-weight) nuclear reactor running at high temperatures to heat the working fluid that is moving through the reactor core. This is known as the solid-core design, and is the simplest design to construct. A NERVA solid-core design The solid-core has the downside that it can only be run at temperatures below the melting point of the materials used in the reactor core. Since the efficiency of a rocket engine is strongly related to the temperature of the working fluid, the solid-core design needs to be constructed of materials that remain strong at as high a temperature as possible. Even the most advanced materials melt at temperatures below that which the fuel can actually create, meaning that much of the potential energy of the reactions is lost. Usually, with hydrogen propellant the solid-core design is expected to deliver specific impulses (Isp) on the order of 800 to 900 seconds, about twice that of liquid hydrogen-oxygen designs such as the Space Shuttle main engine. Other propellants are sometimes proposed such as water or LOX; although they would provide reduced exhaust velocity, their greater availability can reduce payload costs by a very large factor where the mission delta-v is not too high, for example within cislunar space or between Earth orbit and Martian orbit. Immediately after World War II, the weight of a complete nuclear reactor was so great that it was feared that solid-core engines would be hard-pressed[citation needed] to achieve a thrust-to-weight ratio of 1:1, which would be needed to overcome the gravity of the Earth on launch. The problem was quickly overcome, however, and U.S. nuclear thermal rocket designs quickly reached thrust-to-weight ratios of approximately 7:1. Even the ground-tested Soviet RD-0410 had a vacuum ratio of 1.8. Still, the lower thrust-to-weight ratio of nuclear thermal rockets versus chemical rockets means that solid-core engines are best for use in upper stages where vehicle velocity is already near orbital, in space A great related post about this: http://newenergyandfuel.com/http:/newenergyandfuel/com/2010/12/29/good-energy-jobs-in-the-future/ […]

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  11. Peggy Leond on December 2, 2015 1:58 AM

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