The Electrical Worker online
June 2017

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Skills and Professionalism

As a newer member to the labor union I see how this organization matters. By going through an apprenticeship and becoming a journeyman I now have proof of my trade skills. The union has brought a level of professionalism that allows us to bargain for better wages and benefits. We need to show and explain this to young individuals who will be entering the workforce. We need to show how an apprenticeship is as good as other types of secondary education options.

Ron McGill, Local 953 member
Eau Claire, Wis.


John Weber, right, presents Ron McGill his Xcel Energy hydro maintenance technician journeyman certificate.

Nuclear Energy: Safe, Effective, Modern

In your April Letters to the Editor section, a brother brought up issues ("How 'Clean' is Nuclear?") concerning nuclear power plants. We Burnsville, Minn., Local 949, members at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant would like to respectfully present another side.

Brother Cicerale said, "Many union brothers and sisters have worked at nuclear plants and know it's all timed how long anyone can even work around one." It is true that there are locations in a nuclear plant which are off limits or have stay-time limitations, however, the same holds true for other types of power plants. Generating power for our electrical grid requires dangerous levels of energy in certain parts of generating stations, even in a solar or wind turbine plant. We assure you that our plant radiation protection specialists and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are vigilant and effective in keeping workers' radiation exposure levels below the conservative legal limits.

"Solar and wind products don't leave behind waste that can't be recycled or contained." France has recycled its nuclear fuel for years, and the U.S. has the capability to do so as well, and ought to. As far as containing the waste, nuclear plants do an admirable job; it is legally required. Just because radiation is detectable by sensitive instruments does not indicate harmful levels. That banana somebody ate today has tiny levels of radioactive potassium which we can detect, yet we still eat them.

"You can't swim in the waters anywhere near a nuclear plant." This is not true. We fish and swim in the Mississippi near our nuclear plant, with no worries.

"But why do we hang on to these old technology jobs?" The nuclear power industry has a promising future, with next-generation plants under development that are simpler and safer. Instead of waste, the spent fuel at our nuclear plants could be a tremendous asset which can meet our electrical needs for generations, and reduce the dangerous longevity of the spent fuel to less than 200 years. These "old technology" jobs are our hope for the future of clean, constant, baseload energy.

"To ignore the harm that nuclear plants cause will more than likely leave us without drinking water and food." The fear of the unknown is a powerful force. But we can speak to the remarkable safety record our 99 operating U.S. nuclear plants have achieved.

Bill Gehn, Robert Gassis, and the members of Local 949,
Unit 73 Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant
Welch, Minn.

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IBEW Goes Nuclear

About the story, "Nuclear Physics Gets a Boost from the IBEW," [in the May Electrical Worker and posted at], America works best when you say union yes! It proves that IBEW electricians are the best trained and most productive in the world. We are so proud of our sisters and brothers who worked on this project.

Hale Landes, Local 134 member
Naperville, Ill.