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A Nuclear Renaissance in US Vital

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J.M. Bernhard Jr., Chairman, Shaw Group, has called for a national commitment to build up to 50 nuclear power plants by 2030 in the United States.


Bernhard Jr, who is also President and Chief Executive Officer of the Group, told a gathering of power industry leaders that the jobs, clean electricity and energy independence created by a “nuclear renaissance” offer a unique platform to achieve the “hope and change” pledged by President-elect Barack Obama.

“If this nation and the Obama administration are truly serious about controlling global warming, nuclear power must maintain its 20 percent share of U.S. power generation,” said Bernhard, during a keynote address at last week’s Power-Gen International 2008 trade show in Orlando, Fla. “That will require the construction of 45 to 50 new nuclear plants by 2030, while also maintaining operation of the current fleet.”

One reason a nuclear renaissance is vital, he explained, is that alternative forms of generation are years away from providing reliable, plentiful and affordable carbon-free electricity. While wind and solar are receiving a lot of attention as sources of clean energy, Shaw’s chairman cautioned that “we need to be honest” about their ability to meet U.S. electricity needs.

“Wind and solar will play a part, but they will not replace baseload sources of electric generation,” he said.

Bernhard said a nuclear renaissance “would create an industry-driven jobs program unrivaled since the great infrastructure projects of FDR’s Works Progress Administration. But unlike those Depression-era programs, the nuclear renaissance won’t be fueled with deficit financing by the federal government. Rather, it will be paid for with private capital and built by private citizens.”

He cited a number of economic benefits that would be generated by a national commitment to build a new generation of nuclear power plants:

  • Each nuclear construction project would directly employ approximately 4,000 craft workers.
  • Once completed, a nuclear plant’s operation and maintenance would generate 400-700 permanent jobs paying an average of 36 percent more than local wages.
  • The typical nuclear plant annually generates $430 million in sales of goods and services in the local community and $40 million in total labor income.

“The fact is that few initiatives can achieve the ‘hope and change’ promised by our incoming president like the nuclear renaissance: jobs for the middle class, economic growth, energy independence and a cleaner environment,” Bernhard said

The Shaw Group Inc. is a leading global provider of technology, engineering, procurement, construction, maintenance, fabrication, manufacturing, consulting, remediation and facilities management services for government and private sector clients in the energy, chemicals, environmental, infrastructure and emergency response markets. A Fortune 500 company with fiscal year 2008 annual revenues of $7 billion, Shaw is headquartered in Baton Rouge, La.