Economic impact of nuclear to southeast USA highlighted

21 February 2024

The nuclear energy industry in southeast USA generates an annual economic impact of almost USD43 billion, supporting 152,598 jobs and generating USD13.7 billion in labour income, says a study released by the Southeast Nuclear Advisory Council (SENAC).

(Image: SENAC)

The study - The Economic Impact of the Nuclear Industry in the Southeast United States - was conducted by E4 Carolinas, the trade association for Carolina energy companies and organisations. It presents a comprehensive analysis of the economic impacts of the nuclear energy sector in the five-state region consisting of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Nuclear power constitutes 37% of utility-scale net electricity generation in the region, compared with the national average of 19%. The region hosts 25 of the USA's 93 operational nuclear reactors and has a comprehensive network of companies, research universities, and national laboratories supporting the industry, including community colleges and educational programmes that contribute to a skilled workforce for the nuclear industry.

The study "represents a collaboration between industry leaders, educational institutions, and energy non-profits", SENAC said. "It serves as a baseline for understanding the benefits of nuclear power and its integral role in regional economic growth and the global clean energy transition." The report says nuclear energy generates "an impressive" annual economic impact of USD42.9 billion, with USD3.7 billion in annual tax revenues across the five-state region.

It also found the average employment multiplier effect across the five-state region is 2.8, meaning for every ten jobs directly created by the nuclear industry, an additional 18 jobs are generated elsewhere. The nuclear industry's employment multiplier effect is significantly higher than the average industry in these states.

The study says the average wage in the nuclear industry outpaces regional averages by 65.5%, with an average wage of USD89,972 across the five-state region, "underscoring the sector's role in providing high-quality employment opportunities".

"Because of such strong multiplier effects, future investments in new nuclear power plants have the potential to generate significant economic benefits for a local region," the report concludes. "This study estimates that for every USD100 in revenue generated by a new nuclear power plant in the five-state region, approximately USD200 in total economic output would be created."

As part of its recommendations and conclusions, the study underscores the need for states to establish economic development plans centered around nuclear power, emphasising that the southeastern US is uniquely positioned to capitalise on emerging technologies and opportunities in the nuclear sector. The study also encourages a broader perspective on achieving clean energy goals, suggesting greater consideration of nuclear energy and advocating for its inclusion in clean energy standards and policy discussions.

"This report demonstrates two clear findings: the existing civilian nuclear industry provides a massive economic impact for the southeast region, and by supplying USD3.7 billion in tax revenues, is a critical element in overall state and local finances," said Jeff Merrifield, SENAC Co-Chair, Chair of E4 Carolinas, and a Partner of Pillsbury Law. "Additionally, with the largest nuclear workforce in the US, the southeastern United States, represented by the five states in the report, will be a vital supplier of jobs and technologies to enable the next generation of advanced nuclear energy technologies."

Jim Little, SENAC Co-Chair and Industry Representative, South Carolina Governor's Nuclear Advisory Council, added: "The economic benefits reported here are only part of the picture, as nuclear energy also provides a pathway to meeting the anticipated increased demand for power and reduced carbon emissions, while maintaining the low-cost energy and reliability goals important to our region. The southeastern US is at the forefront of nuclear technology development, particularly in Generation IV nuclear technologies and small modular reactors, heralding a new era of safety and cost-efficiency."

"Intuitively, we always knew there was a large benefit to our local and regional economies attributable to nuclear power," said E4 Carolinas President Ken Canavan. "Thanks to this study, we can unequivocally state that the economic benefits are tremendous and include substantial jobs and tax base, and an annual economic impact of $43 billion for the five-state region."

SENAC is an advisory council created to support the advanced nuclear technology research and planning grant received by E4 Carolinas in 2021 from the US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration covering five states in the Southeast USA (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia). SENAC's objective is to bring together industry, academia, and government to connect, promote, educate, and inform the development and deployment of advanced nuclear reactor technology in the region.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News