By Bob Bouyea
Published Sept. 7, 2012
A panel of experts discussed the role the Midlands is playing in the resurgence of nuclear energy during the Columbia Regional Business Report’s Power Hour event Thursday.
Stephen Byrne, president of generation and transmission and COO of South Carolina Electric and Gas Co., said 1,500 people are working at the new V.C. Summer nuclear site building two new 1,000-megawatt units. Of those workers, only 200 work for SCE&G.
A lot of the work is going to non-nuclear S.C. companies such as fencing, earth-moving and electrical companies.
David Moody, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Savannah River Operations Office at the Savannah River Site, said the Savannah River Site spends around $100 million a year with local businesses, and is always looking for industry partners to incubate new companies.
“We have recently entered into a cooperation agreement with Georgia Regents University and are looking at spinoff opportunities,” Moody said.
Travis Knight, acting director of USC’s nuclear engineering graduate program, said there is space for entrepreneurship in the nuclear field and some of the spinoff research “will end up as startup companies.”
One local company that is growing both in the nuclear field, as well as in the non-nuclear field, is Avantech. The company provides water treatment solutions for a wide variety of industries, including nuclear. It was called into action in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and has been cleaning up the radioactive water that accumulated during the crisis.
“There is a lot of opportunity in China,” said Jim Braun, Avantech’s president and CEO. “China and much of Asia are investing heavily in nuclear to provide the power needed for its citizens and industry.
“(China) has a strong desire not to discharge any tainted water,” he said.
Braun said they were able to develop their technology based on 15 years of research at the Savannah River Site.
“We were able to tap into that knowledge,” Braun said. “I’m surprised more don’t take advantage of it.”
Braun, Moody and Byrne all said they are taking advantage of what USC has to offer by hiring the engineers and chemists graduating from the university.
“We are looking at adding 800 people, mostly engineers. And USC is providing most of them,” Byrne said.
Read more about this in the Sept. 17 issue of the Business Report. Subscribe online.