Plant Vogtle expansion promotes clean energy, high wages, economic growth

Georgia’s energy and economic future is strong, but not without uncertainty. Extreme weather events driven by climate challenges and the possibility of a recession loom large as communities continue to recover from the pandemic. During these uncertain times, we need to do everything in our power to bolster our resilience.

A good place to start is investing in projects which offer economic stability, accelerate America’s clean energy transition and enjoy bipartisan support. Enter Plant Vogtle.

Georgia is already home to two nuclear plants that generate 27% of the Peach State’s electricity, and the new units at Plant Vogtle represent the intersection of energy innovation and workforce development. Vogtle recently reached a major milestone with its authorization to load fuel into the first of two new reactors, which are both currently slated to come online in 2023. Units 3 and 4 will be the first new commercial nuclear reactors built in the United States in more than 30 years, representing a critical investment in America’s carbon-free energy infrastructure and one of the nation’s largest union construction jobs.

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Once this project is complete, the four Vogtle units will produce enough zero-carbon, safe, reliable and affordable energy to power more than 1 million homes and businesses in the Peach State for many decades to come – building on the nearly 80% of Georgia’s carbon-free electricity which nuclear energy already provides.

Energy independence, national security

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and resultant volatility in global energy markets has made the reliable baseload power nuclear energy generates even more critical to our national security.

Nuclear power is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, making us less vulnerable to foreign sources of energy and global energy supply shocks. As a result, nuclear power clearly illustrates a valuable role for our country’s energy independence and national security. We commend California for their recent extension of the life of their Diablo Canyon nuclear plant as they grapple with their own energy challenges, further demonstrating the stabilizing value of having nuclear in the energy mix.

Plant Vogtle is also an economic development engine, supporting more than 800 permanent jobs from an increasingly diverse workforce – over 30% of new hires at Vogtle are veterans and reservists. In total, nuclear energy provides 8,000 jobs across Georgia. The demand for jobs in the nuclear energy field is expected to only increase over time.

The role of the labor community in Vogtle’s expansion cannot be overstated. The site’s highly skilled union workers valiantly carried on amid myriad challenges to keep the project moving forward, putting the best interests of Georgians first.

It is no exaggeration to say the expansion of Plant Vogtle may very well have halted entirely due to the pandemic if it were not for the tireless efforts of unions in the area. America’s unions have a significant role in building the more resilient, highly skilled workforce of tomorrow – a workforce which is well-positioned to carry the mantle of historic projects like Plant Vogtle while getting paid high-quality wages.

Broad support

The expansion of Plant Vogtle is many things: a ringing endorsement for collaboration between unions and clean energy companies, a reminder of the importance of investing in workforce development and carbon-free energy production, and a reflection of the ways in which large-scale projects can serve to simultaneously benefit local communities and move the needle at the national level.

It should be no surprise, then, that its expansion would bring together a former US Representative from Georgia, a local labor leader, and a conservative environmental advocate to express our collective support for nuclear carbon-free energy. As we look to the horizon, we can only hope that Plant Vogtle is the first of many projects which harnesses the collective power of dedicated workforces and clean energy innovation to build the energy future the generations to come deserve in Georgia and around the country. That future feels a little less uncertain.

Tom Graves is a former US State Representative from Georgia (GA-14); Will Salters is the business manager and financial secretary of IBEW Local 1579 (Augusta); Justin Jones is with the American Conservation Coalition and a student at the University of West Georgia.

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