A big part of meeting the needs of the Sixth Congressional District and South Carolina is doing what's necessary to make sure that everybody who needs a job can find a job, and the best vehicle for ensuring this is a thriving small-business community. In order for people and businesses to flourish, there is a common variable we often overlook but cannot afford to keep doing so -- the availability and cost of energy.
Energy must be reliable, it must be affordable, and it should be local in order to maximize the benefits. The energy industry is more than the source of our electricity to homes and businesses. It creates jobs as well.
South Carolina needs to commit to a diverse energy portfolio, and nuclear must be a part of that portfolio.
America's energy needs are going to increase 22 percent by 2035. Here in South Carolina, we are ahead of the game. Construction is underway on two new reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in Fairfield County. Construction of just one new reactor creates 1,400-1,800 high-paying jobs during peak construction and yields 400-700 jobs during regular operation. Multiply those numbers by two, and we have serious job creation right in our backyard.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average annual starting salaries in nuclear energy range from $65,000 to $80,000, and the median annual salary for nuclear engineers is $82,900. For our community, this adds up to an additional $430 million per year in economic impact.
But these jobs require training, and we must make sure our current and future generations are taking advantage of the opportunities in front of them. Partnerships between academic institutions and the nuclear energy industry provide scholarships, fellowships, cooperative programs, consulting and in some cases job placement. More than 30 university undergraduate and graduate-level nuclear engineering programs are available as a result of these partnerships, including at S.C. State University, the only historically black college in the nation that offers a nuclear engineering degree.
While the economic opportunities are out there, it is important that we have strong leaders educating business owners, students and residents about the need for a diverse energy portfolio that includes nuclear energy.
The direction and leadership need to be as diverse as the energy portfolio we are advocating. That is why I helped spearhead a town hall meeting on March 1 at Allen University to bring issues to the public's attention. The panel discussion, with representatives from the S.C. African American Chamber, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, South Carolina Electric & Gas, Duke Energy, the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition and many others, was part of a continuing dialogue to ensure the voice of the African-American and S.C. community is heard loud and clear.
I was pleased with the lively discussion, but implore everyone to push us to get involved. Ask questions, reach out for more information, seek educational and job opportunities. This is our community and our future, and we need to be active participants rather than passive observers to ensure that whatever course our energy future takes, it fully benefits all South Carolinians.
Rep. Clyburn represents South Carolina's Sixth Congressional District; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.