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Can the nuclear power industry overcome a critical labor shortage?

Can the nuclear power industry overcome a critical labor shortage?

Posting in Energy

Nuclear power may have the U.S. president's backing, but its stigma has left the industry with a graying workforce that needs a shot in the arm to the tune of some 25,000 workers.

Nuclear power may have the U.S. president's backing, but its stigma has left the industry with a graying workforce that needs a shot in the arm to the tune of some 25,000 workers.

At least that's what reporter Jonathan Berr says, who writes on DailyFinance that an aging workforce may be a major hurdle in President Obama's attempt to infuse the industry with some $8.33 billion in loan guarantees to build new nuclear reactors.

The problem: Nuclear catastrophes over the years, such as the Three Mile Island incident, have discouraged folks to enter the industry.

Now, those who are left in the highly-trained workforce are nearing the age for retirement.

That's a problem, since 18 commercial nuclear projects are under consideration, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Here's the good news: Some plant owners, such as Public Service Enterprise Group, have been working with local community colleges to train qualified workers.

Just last year, the Nuclear Energy Institute wrote in a report that "to maintain the current nuclear work force, the industry may need to hire as many as 25,000 more workers in the next five years."

The problem? Nuclear power is as much as political issue as it is an environmental or economic one.

Last month, the Vermont State Senate voted to close Entergy Corp.'s leaky 625-megawatt Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure