Adjacent Economic Benefits of Nuclear Energy

Lucas Ege
February 25, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: An example of a nuclear energy job: a nuclear chemical operator. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The direct benefit of nuclear energy - clean energy - is well explored in other PH241 reports. [1] Less attention has been paid to the indirect benefits of the nuclear energy sector. These benefits can be broadly categorized into the form of good jobs and solid tax contributions. The key importance of these benefits to the nuclear sector particularly is the quality of these jobs, and the amount of taxes contributed compared to other sources of clean energy. At this point, nuclear energy supplies 19% of the United States' energy, through 99 currently operating nuclear facilities in the United States.

Labor Benefits

The process by which we extract energy from nuclear reactions is obviously complex and dangerous, meaning the employees working to extract this energy must be more skilled to meet these demands. For these reasons, nuclear energy jobs are among the highest-paying jobs in a market (see Fig. 1). Specifically, the Nuclear Energy Institute boasts a national markup of 36% more average salary than other jobs in any plant's local area. Nuclear engineers salaries start at $65,000 and can make as much as $110,000. [2] Each nuclear power plant also employs a large number of employees, meaning the local area of a plant can experience great rates of well- paying employment. The Columbia Generating Station in Eastern Washington State, for example, employs approximately 990 people, for a total annual payroll and benefits of more than $140 million. Energy Northwest, the public utility company that owns Columbia Generating Station, also focuses on supplying these high-paying jobs to veterans. As of 2018, veterans make up 28% of Energy Northwest's workforce, due in part to 35% of EN's 2016 hires being veterans.

Direct Monetary Benefits

Besides indirectly giving back to the community through a greater job market, nuclear plants also supply direct money to their community on a local, state and national level. This money is mostly through the form of taxes. As an example, the Columbia Generating Station mentioned earlier contributes upwards of $10 million annually in the form of local and state taxes. A little under half of these taxes are in the form of privilege tax - a tax levied on public power electricity producers simply for the privilege of generating electricity in the state. Columbia Generating Station is estimated to generate over $8 billion in long-term economic output and greater than $400 million in long-term economic output in Washington between 2018 and 2043. Another commonly used metric for economic contribution is Gross State Product (GSP). The Nuclear Energy Institute estimated Columbia's total 2018 annual economic output impact on the rest of the US at $200 million in direct and secondary economic impacts.

© Lucas Ege. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] T. Thomas, "Advantages of Nuclear Energy Use," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winger 2016.

[2] S. Adams, "Where The Jobs Are: Nuclear Plant Work," Forbes, 12 Feb 10.