By Mark Caserta
The Herald-Dispatch
December 26, 2008, 09:05 PM

For those who believe global warming and unemployment are serious threats to our nation: Stay out of the way of nuclear energy.

In June, the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASE) released a paper titled “Job Creation in the Nuclear Renaissance” that supports the growth of nuclear energy as part of a viable solution to greenhouse gas emission and job growth.

“Nuclear power provides a clean energy solution that produces no greenhouse gases and is good for the economy,” said Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA administrator, New Jersey governor and coalition co-chair. “A renewed focus on nuclear energy will translate into tens of thousands of high-paying American jobs needed to build and operate new reactors.”

According to the CASE report, each nuclear plant could provide 400 to 700 high-paying jobs. This is in addition to the thousands of construction workers needed to build the plants. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual salary for nuclear engineers is $82,900, more than any other engineering field with the exception of petroleum engineering. The report offered that each of the country’s 104 reactors generates an estimated $430 million a year in total revenue for the local community and nearly $40 million in annual labor income.

The global warning concern is based primarily on the emission of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) from the burning of fossil fuels. A nuclear power plant emits no CO2. A nuclear reactor, through a process called “fission,” produces heat that is used to create pressurized steam that drives an electrical generator connected to the electric grid. Although the nuclear facility does not create CO2, there are some emissions generated from the construction of the plant, the mining and enrichment of the uranium and the disposal of waste.

Certainly, there are fears associated with the presence of a nuclear facility.

In March 1979, the event at Three Mile Island resulted in the first case of a meltdown in a full-scale commercial nuclear power plant. In April 1986, the number four reactor at the Chernobyl plant in the Ukraine exploded, killing a number of people from the explosion and the fallout.

We’ve learned a lot from these tragedies.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was created by Congress in 1974 as an independent agency to enable the nation to safely use radioactive materials while ensuring that people and the environment are protected. The NRC currently regulates more than 100 commercial nuclear power reactors that generate electricity. The commission focuses on operator training, emergency planning, dissemination of industry information and probabilistic safety assessment and analysis. It also regulates 36 research and test reactors located primarily in universities used for testing and training of personnel.

Our nation’s demand for electricity is increasing. According to the Energy Information Administration, the annual electricity demand in the U.S. is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2025. We need environmentally friendly, cost-effective methods to generate it.

Nuclear power is the safest, most environmentally clean and efficient form of energy in the world.

Mark Caserta travels the country as a business consultant. He is a native West Virginian and resides in Cabell County.