Despite these uncertainties, the industry is growing again, particularly in western Pennsylvania -- not far from Three Mile Island -- a region long associated with nuclear businesses. Larry Foulke, director of nuclear programs at the University of Pittsburgh, sees it in his classrooms: Pitt created an introductory nuclear engineering class in 2006 and expected 25 to enroll. Seventy-five signed up. For next fall's class, 104 have already pre-enrolled.
Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse, which builds and maintains reactors and is now part of Japan's Toshiba Corp., added 1,400 workers last year to handle the influx of business, and says it will keep adding 650 a year for the next half a decade.
"The recession is something everyone is paying attention to, but it doesn't seem to be having a significant impact on us," says company spokesman Vaughn Gilbert, noting that the company inked another deal in January. Westinghouse now has contracts to build six reactors in the U.S.
That's quite the talent magnet. I discussed yesterday Pittsburgh's improving educational attainment profile. The concentration of brains has its own gravity, attracting more smart people and businesses. The boom in the nuclear industry is just another indicator of the changing demography in the region, continuing to trend towards a national center of innovation.