This week, covered up by election coverage, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant closed down for good. Somewhere, a whole bunch of anti-nuclear activists are cheering. To replace Fort Calhoun, Omaha Power will instead use coal fired plants in Nebraska City, unless of course the future President Clinton shuts down coal, in which case Omaha will just not have enough power.
Fort Calhoun’s problems are just the surface of a growing threat to the future of nuclear energy in America. More nuclear plants are closing, and we aren’t building replacements. The soaring cost of nuclear regulation is piling on to what should be cheap power. The building of nuclear plants requires high level engineering work, something that normally brings in stable, long-term and high paying jobs.
But not anymore. I keep in touch with a headhunter that places nuclear-trained officers (like myself) into jobs after they leave the Navy. He sent a very depressing email to his distribution group, where he declared that he would no longer place officers in the commercial nuclear field:
The promise of cheap power via commercial nuclear was supposed to be its big advantage. It was once even touted as “too cheap to meter!” But it is economics that are now killing the industry. Utilities are deciding it’s less expensive to close plants that are already operating than continue their operation. Think about that: it’s more economical to idle billions of dollars worth of existing infrastructure and spend the money to be build new generation facilities. That’s crazy and a powerful indication of how uncompetitive commercial nuclear power has become.
We at -redacted- believe that strong professional successful Navy Officers should now avoid jobs and careers in commercial nuclear power and are suspending our relationships with our corporate clients in that sector. If a career in commercial nuclear power is your focus, we will not be a good career transition resource for you.
Recent and future nuclear power plant closings and changes:
- San Onofre in CA closing
- Diablo Canyon in CA closing
- Crystal River in FL closing
- Vermont Yankee in VT closing
- Pilgrim in MA closing
- Kewaunee in WI closing
- Harris in SC, 2 plants cancelled
- Levy County in FL shifting from nuclear to natural gas
- Comanche Peak in TX, 2 plants cancelled
- Quad Cities in IL closing
- Clinton in IA closing
- Oyster Creek in NJ closing
- And more are coming…
I have a former Naval Officer friend that worked at San Onofre who confirmed all this bad news. She has since left with her husband for a completely different career field.
Modular nuclear plant? That’s so 1960’s…
Meanwhile, China is rapidly building nuclear capacity, growing their engineering base in the process. Now they have designed a small reactor capable of providing 6 MW of power, enough to power a small island (South China Sea anyone?). Although the media is touting this as an accomplishment, it’s not. The Army built a number of small reactors, the Navy currently operates reactors on its submarines and aircraft carriers, and even the Air Force attempted to make nuclear powered aircraft. And this was back in the 60’s and 70’s. If we had continued investing in nuclear power, we could have closed our dirty coal plants and lowered electricity costs, perhaps enabling us to build the renewable energy sources for long-term electrical generation. Instead, we’re taking a second seat to China.
This post is the opinion of the author and does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.
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Lastly, please say a prayer for all the families of the engineers affected by Fort Calhoun’s shutdown. They now have to find new employment, and it’ll be hard on them for the next few years.