As a lifelong resident of Salem County, I’ve lived near PSEG’s nuclear plants my whole life. I was a young girl when the plants were built 40 years ago. I remember seeing the steady stream of trucks carrying workers and big pieces of equipment to the plant. It was exciting for me and my friends. It seemed like the biggest thing that had ever happened around here.
Today, I’m the executive director of the Salem County Chamber of Commerce, and the plants are the heartbeat of the county’s economy. More than 400 businesses belong to the chamber, of which 80 percent are small companies. Many of those businesses wouldn’t exist without PSEG’s nuclear plants. The plants and their 1,600 employees are vital customers.
For many of those shops and businesses the busy season is a four-to-six week period in the spring and fall. During that time, PSEG brings 1,000 additional workers on site twice a year for maintenance and refueling outages. They help do the maintenance work that can’t be performed while the plant is running. This spring, they are already here working again with the PSEG team to test, repair, upgrade, and replace equipment so the plant can continue to safely produce the electricity New Jersey depends on for years to come. When you live close to a nuclear plant you pay attention to safety. And we in Salem County are well aware that nuclear power has the safest track record of any power source — regardless of the sensational headlines.
The work to keep the plants safe and dependable is a boon to our economy. Our normally quiet community buzzes with activity. Traffic picks up. Hotels are booked for weeks. Lawn signs pop up advertising rooms for rent.
“The nuclear plant outages have such a big impact on our business,” said Ollivia Willis, general manager of the Hampton Inn. “Workers come from all over the country to Salem County to support PSEG’s refueling outages.”
The local restaurants and sandwich shops are packed. The wait line is several people deep for orders at convenience stores, pizza places, and coffee shops as workers grab their meals on the go. The DiMarco family has owned the Italian Kitchen for more than 30 years, and the outages have become a rite of spring.
“It’s our busy season and we get workers coming and going at the shift changes for both breakfast and dinner,” Gino DiMarco said. “It’s a lot of hungry mouths to feed so we love when it’s refueling outage season!”
It’s hard to imagine Salem County without PSEG’s nuclear plants. They are a vital part of our community. The plant and its employees are good neighbors that make many contributions to the area. Part of that is economic. The plants, the employees, and the thousands of contractors who support the outages are important to the health of the Salem business community. It’s one of the many reasons why New Jersey needs nuclear.
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