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Hope in a bad economy February 13, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, approval process, economic benefits, Elmore County, Energy policy, Greenfield nuclear development, Mountain Home News, Politics and nuclear, rural nuclear.
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The news in last week’s Mountain Home News was unsettling. Unemployment in the county has reached 7 percent in Elmore County – not a devastating figure, but high for a place with a normally robust economy, and slightly ahead of the state figure of 6.6 percent. Loss of jobs at Micron, the closing of a potato processing plant, a poor Christmas season and fewer car sales are behind much of the job unemployment.

According to the story, people are taking lower-paying jobs to get through but “… in general, if you’re looking for high-paying jobs, you’re not going to find it in Elmore County. You’re probably going to have to move. There just aren’t any jobs like that here,” said Albert Clement, who runs the local Idaho Department of Labor office. Unemployment benefits are essential, Clement said, because “this is outside money coming and outside money tends to roll over several times” before it leaves the local economy.

The bright spots in the economy are construction at the air base, the Marathon Cheese factory and Wal-Mart.

These are uncertain times for the state and national economies. With a new administration, Mountain Home Air Force Base may once again be at risk of shrinkage or closure. At a time like this, it is worth revisiting our 2007 economic study by Johnson Gardner of Portland, Ore.

Nuclear plants generate energy that is second only to hydro in low cost, because uranium is a cheap and potent fuel, but nuclear plants are capital intensive. That’s good news for communities that develop nuclear plants, as they will enjoy plentiful construction jobs for several years and later reap the benefits of jobs that pay an average of $80,000 a year. Our reactor will remain a mainstay of Idaho’s economy – you can be sure we won’t offshore to Asia. We will be here to stay.

Our 2007 economic study found our plant will (amounts are in 2006 dollars):

·             Create a total commercial impact of $2.6 billion during construction – a boost of nearly 6 percent to the State’s economy.

·             Generate 4,230 jobs statewide during construction, including a total annual payroll impact of $839 million – nearly 2 percent of the payroll in Idaho.

·             Generate ripple economic effects of $237 million during construction in Ada, Canyon, and Bonneville counties.

·             Create a total commercial impact of $155 million a year during operation.

·             Generate 1,004 annual jobs statewide during operation (estimated 60 years or more) with an annual statewide payroll impact of $57 million.

·             Pay average annual wages of $80,000 to plant employees (267 percent of Idaho average) and pay would be $33,536 (112 percent of Idaho average) in industries indirectly affected.

·             Produce annual state tax revenues of $74 million during operation.

·             Grow employment in Elmore and Owyhee counties by 25 percent.

·             Produce total annual labor income impacts in Owyhee and Elmore counties of $52.3 million during operation.

·             Permanent IEC operation would single-handedly boost State General Fund revenues by 3.3 percent annually.

The report estimated there are enough Idaho workers to fill most of the construction jobs. Whenever possible, we will use workers, engineers, consultants and businesses from Owyhee County, Idaho and the Northwest region.

Oddly, while our opponents criticize us for possibly selling power out of state (as wind farms and geothermal plants already do), the other side of the coin is that our plant will greatly benefit Elmore County’s economy because it will, in fact, bring in money from out of state!

Even with no new plants under construction, the development process is putting people to work. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, “nuclear energy is one of the few bright spots in the US economy – expanding rather than contracting.”

The NEI report says the prospect of new plant construction in has already stimulated considerable investment and job creation among companies that supply the nuclear industry: “over the last several years, the nuclear industry has invested over $4 billion in new nuclear plant development, and plans to invest approximately $8 billion in the next several years to be in a position to start construction in 2011-2012.”

In the course of this, NEI said, “private investment in new nuclear power plants has created an estimated 14,000-15,000 jobs.” The number of new jobs “will expand dramatically after 2011 when the first wave of these new nuclear projects starts construction.”

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