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Carolinas Nuclear Industry Adds More Than $20 Billion to Economy Annually

Nov. 14, 2013—A new study by academics from Clemson University shows that the nuclear energy industry in North and South Carolina creates more than $20 billion in economic impact annually. The industry also directly supports 29,000 jobs in the two states, the study said.

“Residents and businesses in the Carolinas receive real economic benefits from the nuclear industry through jobs, income creation and the multiplier of spending,” said Scott Mason, lead researcher at Clemson University.

The study was commissioned by the Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster—a coalition of the nuclear energy industry, higher education institutions and nonprofits in the two states—to obtain a clear measure of the economic effects of nuclear in the region.

Besides the operating nuclear energy facilities, the study included producers of nuclear fuel, engineering and procurement firms, suppliers and subcontractors, and others in the field.

The report notes that the industry pays more than $2.2 billion in direct payroll and more than $950 million in state and local taxes per year. It adds that several factors have increased the industry’s economic impact from $8.4 billion in 2009 to $27.7 billion annually today.

“Clearly, part of this is attributable to new construction, the influx of nuclear-related companies to the region, and the growth in community businesses to support the population increase associated with nuclear industry employees relocating to the Carolinas,” the report says.

Construction at the V.C. Summer facility in South Carolina and Plant Vogtle in Georgia has played a significant role in the increase, the report says. It notes that even though the Vogtle project is outside the Carolinas, its “close proximity to the South Carolina border” led the research team to include it in its analysis.

“[New reactor] build time will be about 10 years, expenditures will average approximately $1 billion per year per plant, and on-site personnel will ramp up to approximately 5,500 in year five and then ramp down to approximately 1,000 personnel by the end of construction. [T]he direct economic impact of new construction is estimated to be $2.75 billion,” the report said.

The study includes the total direct impact of the nuclear industry based on employment at 12 operating nuclear energy facilities in North and South Carolina, the Energy Department’s Savannah River and Barnwell sites, the V.C. Summer and Vogtle construction sites, and nuclear suppliers and subcontractors.

The report’s authors provide a snapshot of the economic benefits created locally by each reactor.  

“Based on national averages, it is estimated that each reactor supports a payroll of $40 million by employing between 400 and 700 individuals,” the report said. “The macro-economic impact of each reactor is estimated to be $470 million to the local economy.”

The report also highlights the direct economic impact of nuclear energy suppliers ($192.5 million), original equipment manufacturers ($1.15 billion), and engineering, procurement and construction contractors ($750 million).

“These suppliers can provide materials to the nuclear industry domestically and multi-nationally as well as to other industries,” said Jim Little, chair of the Carolinas Nuclear Cluster. He cited industrial supply firms, valve manufacturers, motor and pump makers, design firms, maintenance companies and services such as security and laboratories as examples of businesses in the nuclear supply chain.