As the chief nuclear officer for PSEG Nuclear, I am responsible for leading the safe and reliable operation of our Salem and Hope Creek generating stations in Salem County. Over the past several years, our employees have watched in fear as nuclear plants throughout the country have closed. It’s hard not to worry and wonder if it could happen here in New Jersey.
For me personally, it really hit home last week, when First Energy announced it was closing its four nuclear plants located outside of Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Toledo. Prior to coming to PSEG Nuclear, I spent more than 20 years of my career with First Energy. Starting out as a control-room supervisor, I worked my way up to become chief nuclear officer.
Along the way, I got to meet many great people. Today, my thoughts and prayers are with my former friends and colleagues. Over the next year, more than 2,000 employees will lose their jobs. It will impact families throughout the Ohio Valley region, as many will be forced to move to find work elsewhere.
The local communities around the plants also will be negatively affected as the economic impact of purchasing goods and services from the business community, as well as the taxes paid by the plants, will be gone. This has a ripple effect that also impacts the local school districts and police, fire, and other municipal services.
To really understand the severity of those impacts, look at places like California, Vermont, and Wisconsin, where nuclear plants have closed. The communities that hosted those nuclear plants are still suffering several years later.
Can it happen here in New Jersey?
Though Salem and Hope Creek currently are profitable, the market forecasts show us losing money in the next two years. This is in spite of our best efforts to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. In addition, our plants have never run better, as evidenced by Hope Creek’s record output last year and the two plants combining for the second-greatest output in their 40 years of operations.
We’re doing everything we can to continue operating for another 20 years. But it’s just not enough.
That’s why the current legislation to provide a safety net for Salem and Hope Creek is so important on so many levels.
Most importantly, the safety-net legislation is about people. It’s about the 1,600 people who take great pride in operating our plants safely.
Faced with uncertainty about the plants’ immediate future, we’ve lost dozens of good people over the past year. Many didn’t want to leave. But not knowing what would happen with the safety-net legislation and the plants’ future, they moved their families elsewhere for new opportunities.
It’s also about indirect jobs — hiring contractors and using vendors and suppliers — including local small businesses in both the New Jersey and the Delaware Valley region. All totaled, nuclear represents about 6,000 direct and indirect jobs. The plants mean so much to the Salem County community. It’s not just where we do business — it’s our home, too.
Unlike Pennsylvania and Ohio and the other states before them, New Jersey has the unique opportunity to prevent the closure of its nuclear plants. On behalf of our employees, the environment, fuel diversity, and our community, I urge the New Jersey legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy to support the nuclear safety-net legislation. We can’t let it happen here.