Texas Energy Sector Needs a New Workforce Now
At first glance, the large, framed photo hanging on a wall at the state’s largest nuclear power plant seems to tell a simple story. About 200 smiling men and women stand in block formation behind a long-stretching banner — shades of a high school class portrait, though one posed in front of the domes of two nuclear reactors.
“UNIT 1 COMMERCIAL OPERATION 25 YEARS — AUGUST 25, 1988,” the banner reads.
The photo, snapped last summer, is a source of pride at the South Texas Project nuclear plant, about 90 miles southwest of Houston on 12,200 acres along the Colorado River. But for the plant’s officials, it encapsulates anxiety about who will work at the plant in the years ahead.
Each worker in the photo helped build the plant and has kept it running, and the workers make up just a portion of those who will soon retire, taking along years of expertise. The owners must find a younger generation of specialists to keep the plant producing the power that lights two million homes.
“It’s the thing that keeps me up at night,” said Dennis Koehl, chief executive and chief nuclear officer at the STP Nuclear Operating Company.
The company’s 1,200 employees average more than 22 years of experience, and in the next few years, about 40 percent will be eligible for retirement.