COLUMBIA, SC — The fact that the nuclear industry is significant in South Carolina surprises few people, but the $20 billion scope of its yearly economic impact in the Carolinas just might.
A new study by Clemson University says employment and corporate activity from energy production at the 12 commercial nuclear plants in South Carolina and North Carolina are primary factors, along with jobs and new construction at the federal Savannah River Site in Aiken County and waste disposal in Barnwell County, even using conservative figures.
At least 29,000 jobs are generated directly by the nuclear industry in the two states, the report released Wednesday said – 71,000 others indirectly – which generate $4.2 billion in direct and indirect pay each year along with almost $1 billion in state and local taxes.
“The nicest thing for me is being able to validate that the Carolinas is really a leader in nuclear energy for the United States,” said Jim Little, Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster chairman, who also is a 40-year veteran of the nuclear industry.
Major utility companies such as SCANA, Duke Energy, and Southern Co., which owns Plant Vogtle near Augusta, have shown willingness to invest major financial assets into 60-year projects such as nuclear power plants, Little said, and other support businesses also have shown they will relocate here as a result, he said.
“Being able to validate that bright future and that leadership position that the Carolinas have, and the fact that it is growing is gratifying,” Little said.
The first report of its kind since 2009, the Clemson report also figured in the economic impact of two new reactors under construction at the Plant Vogtle nuclear site sitting along the Savannah River in Georgia just south of Augusta.
Of course, $10.8 billion of new nuclear reactor construction is under way by Cayce-based SCANA Corp. for two new units at its V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia in Fairfield County.
The study also includes planned new nuclear reactors Duke Energy currently is seeking licensing to construct and operate at their Lee Nuclear Station in Cherokee County.
Since a similar report came out four years ago, the total economic impact of the nuclear industry on the area has grown by more than $19 billion, the Clemson report shows.
New construction, the influx of nuclear-related companies, and the growth of local businesses to support the added people who come to the region to work in the nuclear industry are credited in part in the report for the increased impact.
Whenever primary mega-industries such as nuclear production exists in a state or region such as the Carolinas, then grow – they also produce increasing multiplier effects, much like the more recent rise of automotive and aerospace business clusters in the state have done.
In 2012, the nuclear industry generated an estimated $11.8 billion in induced and indirect economic effects in the two states, according to the Clemson report.
“The numbers clearly illustrate the economic impact that nuclear has in the Carolinas,” said Jeff Archie, SCANA chief nuclear officer. “I think the report looked at a number of different areas, a number of different segments, but in all cases it demonstrated and proved that nuclear is having a significant impact in the Carolinas, and that impact is not a short-term impact, but one that can be sustainable for the long term.”
The official report from Clemson can be accessed at http://e4carolinas.org.