Georgia’s energy and economic future is solid, but not without uncertainty. Extreme weather events brought on by climate challenges and the possibility of a recession threaten as communities continue to recover from the pandemic. In these uncertain times, we must do everything in our power to build our resilience.
A good place to start is to invest in projects that provide economic stability, accelerate America’s clean energy transition, and have bipartisan support. Enter Plant Vogtle.
Georgia is already home to two nuclear power plants that generate 27% of Peach State’s electricity, and Plant Vogtle’s new units represent the intersection of energy innovation and workforce development. Vogtle recently reached an important milestone with its approval to load fuel into the first of two new reactors, both expected to be commissioned 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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When this project is complete, the four Vogtle units will produce enough carbon-free, safe, reliable and affordable energy to power more than one million homes and businesses in the Peach State for many decades to come – in relying on almost 80% of Georgia. carbon-free electricity that nuclear energy already provides.
Energy independence, national security
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting volatility in global energy markets has made the reliable baseload power that nuclear power 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 energy sources and global energy shocks. As a result, nuclear energy clearly illustrates a valuable role for our country’s energy independence and national security. We commend California for its recent extension of the life of its Diablo Canyon nuclear plant as it grapples with its own energy challenges, demonstrating the stabilizing value of including nuclear in the energy mix.
Plant Vogtle is also an engine of economic development, supporting more than 800 permanent jobs from an increasingly diverse workforce – more than 30% of new recruits at Vogtle are veterans and reservists. In total, nuclear energy provides 8,000 jobs throughout Georgia. The demand for jobs in the nuclear energy field is only expected to increase over time.
The role of the working-class community in Vogtle’s expansion cannot be overstated. The highly skilled unionized workers at the site valiantly persevered despite myriad challenges to move the project forward, putting the best interests of Georgians first.
It is no exaggeration to say that the expansion of Plant Vogtle could very well have come to a halt entirely due to the pandemic if it were not for the tireless efforts of the unions in the region. American unions have an important role to play in building the more resilient, highly skilled workforce of tomorrow – a workforce well-positioned to carry the torch of historic projects like Plant Vogtle while earning wages High quality.
Plant Vogtle’s expansion represents many things: a resounding endorsement for collaboration between unions and clean energy companies, a reminder of the importance of investing in workforce development and production carbon-free energy, and a reflection on how large-scale projects can serve to both benefit local communities and move the needle nationally.
So it should come as no surprise that its expansion brings together a former US Representative from Georgia, a local labor leader and a conservative environmentalist to voice our collective support for carbon-free nuclear power. As we look to the horizon, we can only hope that Plant Vogtle is the first of many projects that harness the collective power of a dedicated workforce and clean energy innovation to build the energy future that future generations deserve in Georgia and across the country. This future seems a little less uncertain.
Tom Graves is a former US State Representative from Georgia (GA-14); Will Salters is business manager and financial secretary for IBEW Local 1579 (Augusta); Justin Jones is a member of the American Conservation Coalition and a student at the University of West Georgia.