In this post, I questioned John McCain’s claim that building 45 new nuclear reactors between now and 2030 would create 700,000 new jobs. I couldn’t find any numbers to back the claim up, and plenty of numbers that cast doubt on it.
I contacted the campaign, and they sent along a 2004 study called "U.S. Job Creation Due to Nuclear Power Resurgence in the United States," co-produced by the DOE’s Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and Bechtel Power Corporation.
The study attempts to model the results of "deploying 33 to 41 new Generation III units, ranging in capacity from 1200 to 1500 megawatts (MWe)," starting construction in 2009, fully online by 2020. It estimates that 610,000 jobs would be created, as follows:
• Repatriating 37,000 to 38,000 nuclear manufacturing jobs
• Adding 72,000 to 79,000 plant construction and operations jobs
• Adding another 181,000 to 250,000 Indirect Jobs in the nuclear power industry
• Inducing an additional 218,000 to 242,000 jobs in the non-nuclear industries throughout the country.
Bump the number of plants to 45, extend the deadline to 2030, and, according to the McCain campaign, you get to 700,000 jobs.
I’m obviously not qualified to do a detailed critique of a macroeconomic study. The three sources of data are Bechtel Power, Dominion Energy, and the Nuclear Energy Institute, so I’m skeptical right off the bat. Including direct jobs, indirect jobs, and "induced jobs" is likely to inflate the numbers. Take a look:
The other relevant question is, how many jobs might we create (and induce) with a commensurate investment in renewable energy and efficiency? As I mentioned in the earlier post, other studies indicate: way more.
Of course, plenty of economists are driven nuts by this debate. They view job growth and loss as a result of macroeconomic trends, not individual industries, and they view these confident job creations claims as total bunk. I strongly suspect McCain chief economic advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin, whose academic focus was macroeconomic modeling, is one of them. I chatted with him a while back about green jobs and he was extremely skeptical of studies predicting specific numbers of jobs).
In his heart of hearts, I’m sure Holtz-Eakin thinks Obama’s "five million green jobs" claim is hokum — and that these nuclear-jobs numbers are too. But McCain needs some numbers to counter Obama’s jobs talk, so here they are.
Far as I’m concerned, R&E will be creating millions of jobs for decades to come no matter what governments do, whereas nuclear will do the same if and only if it receives massive corporate welfare. That’s a better basis for choosing between them than these dueling job studies.