Sama Bilbao y León column: Little nuclear reactors could be a big boon for Virginia
March 7th, 2017
      Sama Bilbao y León
      Richmond Times-Dispatch

Read the full column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch at

…With our large nuclear infrastructure and know-how, Virginia would be ideal for the development of very small nuclear reactors, for both military and commercial use. AREVA and BWX Technologies, both among the world’s leading nuclear suppliers, have key facilities in Virginia. Newport News Shipbuilding, the builder of nuclear aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, is located in Newport News. Our state is home to NASA, the nuclear Navy, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, and Dominion Power, which operates four nuclear reactors that supply almost 40 percent of the state’s electricity. Providing a talented and well-prepared workforce for the nuclear complex is Virginia Commonwealth University, the largest public university in Virginia, which has a growing nuclear engineering program, the only one in the state to offer a full suite of nuclear engineering degrees.

Nuclear energy facilities in Virginia employ more than 2,100 highly skilled workers with an annual payroll of $144 million, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. Those numbers would increase significantly if Virginia designed and manufactured small reactors for the global market. It is time to take our economic future seriously and place new emphasis on an energy source that is available now: nuclear power. Building small reactors will pay rich dividends in more jobs and revenue sooner than anyone might think.

Sama Bilbao y León is an associate professor and director of nuclear engineering programs at VCU. Contact her at