NEWS

 

 

February 27, 2009

 

TVA Senior VP Speaks at NACC about Nuclear Power

Ashok Bhatnagar, Senior Vice President of Nuclear Generation Development and Construction for the Tennessee Valley Authority, spoke about the future of nuclear power at a Tri-State Regional Workforce Alliance meeting held at Northeast Alabama Community College February 26. In his role at TVA, Bhatnagar leads TVA’s effort to study and develop new nuclear generation to meet the growing demand for power in the Tennessee Valley region. He is responsible for completion of Watts Bar Unit 2, all licensing and project development activities at Bellefonte, and supporting development of used fuel processing options.

According to Bhatnagar, the U.S. Department of Energy predicts that by 2030, power consumption in the U.S. will increase by 40%. While this may seem like a large increase, that 40% roughly parallels the expected increase in population in the Southeastern U.S. during the same period. Bhatnagar discussed nuclear as a safe, clean and reliable method of generating electrical power.

“The nuclear industry in the U.S. is built on a foundation of safety,” said Mr. Bhatnagar. “Nuclear energy is competitive in price, promotes clean air, and is a reliable source of energy.” Since he was speaking to a group of workforce development and economic development leaders, the audience was keenly interested in the economic factors surrounding a nuclear plant.

According to Bhatnagar, for every dollar spent in construction, an additional $1.07 is poured into the local economy. Every job in nuclear construction and operations creates two more jobs in the local economy. The average nuclear industry worker earns about one third more than other typical jobs in the region. Not only does nuclear power make sense in the communities in which plants are located, it also helps all TVA power consumers by keeping the cost of electricity low. Last year, for instance, the power generated by the recently completed Browns Ferry Nuclear Unit 1 saved TVA consumers $800 million because the utility was able to produce electricity at rates much lower than it would have cost to purchase power. This, according to Bhatnagar, represents an excellent return on investment for TVA and the consumers it serves.

Bhatnagar updated the group on the progress of Watts Bar Unit 2, which is currently on budget and on schedule for completion in 2012. Staffing for construction is currently at 1,600, and is expected to peak at 2,400 next year. Bhatnagar was also pleased to announce that some of the major components for the Watts Bar project are being produced in nearby Fort Payne.

Though Mr. Bhatnagar did not wish to speculate on the series of events or timing that would bring the Bellefonte site in Jackson County to fruition, he did provide advice to those present as to how to prepare for any future nuclear construction. “We are seeing a shortage in the skilled crafts, including welders,” stated Bhatnagar. Workforce and economic development officials can “work with local schools and colleges to promote students entering these skilled crafts,” said Bhatnagar. “Nuclear energy is a good industry.”

Mike Kennamer, Director of Workforce Development at Northeast Alabama Community College, observed that NACC has positioned itself to provide many of the skills necessary to secure these good jobs from TVA and other employers. “Our programs are designed and managed in such a way that we pay close attention to local and regional industry needs, and respond accordingly,” said Kennamer. “We are very much interested in learning what skills sets TVA needs, so that we can assure that our graduates are prepared not only to work for TVA, but to be the best employees they have,” continued Kennamer.

Dr. David Campbell, NACC President, stated, “Mr. Bhatnagar has had a distinguished career in nuclear engineering and plant operations. It was great to have him on our campus and to hear his comments about nuclear power and have his support of workforce development programs like the Tri-State Alliance.”

Established in January 2006, the Tri-State Regional Workforce Alliance is a dynamic organization encompassing twenty-six counties in three states with more than sixty partners including economic development, regional planning, educational, philanthropic, and entrepreneurial entities from the three states.

Staffing is accomplished by key staff of the three lead agencies, including Coosa Valley Regional Development Center, Northeast Alabama Community College, and the Southeast Tennessee Development District. Meetings are held quarterly, and rotate among the three states.

President Campbell pointed out that the three states in the Tri-State Regional Workforce Alliance (Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia) share many geographic, transportation, economic, and cultural traits. The Tennessee Valley Authority and its power operations are a common denominator for all three states in the Tri-State Region. “Leaders from the area serve all three states by working together,” Campbell said. “For example, the location of the Volkswagen Plant in nearby Tennessee can have some very positive benefits to those of us in Alabama and Georgia, and opening the Bellefonte Plant in Alabama could greatly benefit those in Tennessee and Georgia. Training and work opportunities in Georgia certainly will help those of us in Alabama and Tennessee.”

For more information on the Tri-State Regional Workforce Alliance, visit the web site at www.tristateworkforce.com. For information on TVA jobs, visit www.tva.gov/employment. And for information on any of the programs offered by NACC, visit the college’s website at www.nacc.edu or call the Office of Workforce Development at ext. 254.

Among participants at the Tri-State Alliance meeting at NACC were (L-R) Nancy Griggs, NACC Administrative Assistant; David Graham, Manager of Education and Outreach, Tennesee Valley Authority; Mike Kennamer, NACC Director of Workforce Development and Job Skills Training; Rick Layne, Assistant Director, Workforce Development, Southeast Tennessee Skills Center; Dus Rogers, President, Jackson County Economic Development Authority; Rick Roden, President/CEO Greater Jackson County Chamber of Commerce; David Campbell, NACC President; Ashok Bhatnagar, Senior Vice President, Nuclear Generation Development and Construction, Tennessee Valley Authority; and Sheila Shepherd, Vice President, Jackson County Economic Development Authority.
The group stands in front of the NACC Workforce Development Building.