Ohio must engage in nuclear renaissance

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, June 23, 2009

As your United States Senator, I spend a lot of time traveling the state listening to Ohioans. Without a doubt, jobs and the economy continue to be top concerns.

Ohio is a manufacturing state, with a workforce second to none. But, a number of factors including increasing global competition, the recession, and increasing energy costs have taken a heavy toll on our manufacturing base.

We shouldn’t turn our back on manufacturing. We must retool.

That’s why I was so excited to join the Babcock & Wilcox Company earlier this month as they announced their plans to manufacture small modular nuclear reactors, which will result in millions of dollars in investments over next three years. This program is expected to create several hundred new jobs at their Euclid and Barberton facilities in Ohio, and is exactly the direction I believe we should be heading in as a state and country.

I also was excited to join Duke and AREVA to announce a large scale clean nuclear energy production center coming to Piketon, Ohio. This means thousands of jobs for Ohio, which will be part of the finest nuclear workforce in the world. Our highly trained and experienced citizens have a work ethic second-to-none and I am sure they will be up for the challenge. AREVA also plans to partner with six Ohio manufacturers and is continuing to look for more Ohio made products.

Today, there is a huge energy gap between the renewable electricity we would like to have and the reliable, low-cost electricity we must have. Nuclear is the best power source we have available to meet our energy needs while also curbing emissions of greenhouse gases.

For the past eight years, as the Chairman or Ranking Member on the Senate Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, I have been focused on preparing Ohio and our country for a nuclear renaissance.

Let me assure you, nuclear is on the rise. Throughout the world, governments are turning to nuclear energy as a safe, domestic, cost-effective and emission-free solution to increasing energy demand.

Here in the U.S., our 104 nuclear plants in operation provide 20 percent of our electricity. That represents over 70 percent of the nation’s emission free generation portfolio. Meanwhile, only 1.4 percent of our emission free power comes from wind, and only .08 percent from solar.

Don’t get me wrong. I do support expanding the use of renewable like solar and wind energy – I think we need everything to achieve true energy independence – but realistically, we are not yet in a position to be able to rely upon them for base-load power generation.

President and CEO of Westinghouse Electric, Dr. Aris Candris, told me that about 12,000 jobs will be created for each new nuclear plant when you include the manufacturing jobs.

Since 2007, 17 applications have been filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the construction and operation of 26 new power reactors, and applications for four more are expected within the next 12 months.

That means more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs will be created to supply the needed parts and components for the 30 nuclear reactors that are currently planned here in the United States.

Globally, there are 44 reactors under construction in various stages, and many more being planned.

We don’t want to be left behind. Now is the time for Ohio to take a leadership role on the nuclear stage with the vast amount of industrial talent in our great state, and to become a manufacturing center for nuclear components.

Organized labor gets it.

They understand expanding nuclear power will create a lot of well-paying jobs.

Everyone is starting to get it – nuclear is a three’fer: Without it, we will not be able to reach our goal of reducing carbon emissions; Without it, we will not be able to provide the base-load electricity our growing country will demand; And, without it, we will not be able to rebuild our manufacturing base.

Ohio is poised to be the heart of it all during the nuclear renaissance. Let’s seize the moment.

Sen. George Voinovich represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate.