Latinos will dominate the U.S. labor force of the future, but the time to decide what type of workers they want to be is now. Choosing the right job or career path today is essential to increasing their chances for economic and social attainment tomorrow. For Latinos at that crossroads, there are benefits to considering “going nuclear.”
Working in the nuclear energy industry represents enticing economic advantages for those looking to improve their lives, their families and their communities while protecting the environment — considerations most Latinos have in mind at the time of choosing a job or profession.
What’s in it for Latinos?
“Every job in the nuclear industry pays more than other jobs,” said Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO) President and CASEnergy member Karen Avilla. “Nuclear workers up and down the pipeline can earn an average of 35 percent higher salaries compared to similar jobs in other industries.”
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010 data), a nuclear technician can earn an average of $68,090 per year or $32.73 per hour with an Associate’s degree and no experience — none, as in nada, zilch, zip — in the industry. Power plant operators, distributors and dispatchers controlling systems that generate and distribute electric power can earn as much as $65,360 with a high school diploma, while nuclear engineers are paid $99,920 with a Bachelor’s degree.
Also, power plants do not go away. They do not export jobs to emerging economies nor move around the country. In fact, 19,000 jobs are created annually in the U.S. to manufacture parts for nuclear plants built around the world.
“The nuclear energy industry pays more because it requires security clearance. As in police and firefighters’ jobs, young men and women in this industry need to ‘keep their nose clean’ and be on the right path. The difference is that right now state and local government jobs are fading away while these well-paid union jobs will continue to increase in the near future,” Avilla said. “So why not encourage our children to take those jobs?” — especially if they are being seeked out by the industry.
CASEnergy, a national grassroots organization that supports the increased use of nuclear energy, is strongly committed to attracting Latinos and other minorities to career opportunities in the industry.
A way for Latinos to be proactive in this process is to begin by looking into community colleges that have nuclear energy programs. “Miami-Dade College and other 30 community colleges around the country have engaged in private-public partnerships with electric suppliers to train the nuclear labor force of the future,” Avilla explained.
Latinos interested in job opportunities can join the CASEnergy Coalition or the North American Young Generation in Nuclear to network with companies and individuals.
But some may be skeptical about working with the energy source. To address concerns, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy), dispels myths and misinformation about the matter.
Nuclear energy and the mushroom cloud
“The mushroom cloud is the result of a nuclear weapon, not a nuclear power plant,” explains Gov. Whitman.
CASEnergy was formed in 2006. Funded by the industry, its mission is to educate the American public about the benefits the industry has to offer.
“US nuclear energy plants are strongly regulated — more than any other energy producing facility in the country — and closely monitored by an independent agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC),” Gov. Whitman said.
Environmental concerns are also reduced with nuclear energy. Nuclear plants generate virtually no greenhouse gases nor are land invasive — such as fracking. They do not pollute surrounding water and biotic resources, producing, at the moment, 60 percent of the U.S.’ clean energy.
In addition to being safe, nuclear plants also benefit communities. With an overall economic impact of about $460 million annually, they generate $40 million in labor and pensions at a state and local level. Once the plant is up and running, the cost can be as low as 2 to 3 cents per KW/hour — less than any other source of energy.
An interesting comparison? One small pellet of enriched uranium — the size of a finger tip — produces the same amount of energy as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas; 1,780 pounds of coal; or 149 gallons of oil. Moreover, the cost of electricity can be locked-in in long-term contracts because nuclear energy neither depends on foreign suppliers nor suffers from fluctuations in source conditions.
“Nuclear facilities are great economic drivers for local communities and residents who, once informed, actually favor nuclear energy because they understand the benefits it brings in,” Gov. Whitman said.
The opportunity is now; results will pay in the future. If you are choosing a job or deciding a career path, power up and go nuclear to a real, “booming” professional opportunity.
This article was original published by Susana G. Baumann for VOXXI.