Workforce deal for Unistar

15 April 2008

Bechtel, Constellation Energy and the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) have made a tri-partite agreement to negotiate on construction work for Unistar nuclear power plants in the USA.


The three said today in Washington DC that they hoped their labour deal would serve as a model first for the construction of Calvert Cliffs 3, and then for every nuclear power project after that in the USA.


EPR 2 


The Calvert Cliffs 3 project, which was the first to have licence application paperwork submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, would see an Areva EPR pressurized water reactor built at Calvert Cliffs. The unit would be the first of a potential fleet of standardized EPRs, all built by the same Bechtel- and Areva-led consortium, all sporting Alstom steam turbines, and all operated by Constellation.


Mark Ayers, general president of the BCTD, which is part of the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Relations, said he had been approached by Constellation and Bechtel. The three made a deal after Ayers told the would-be constructors: "You give us a commitment to build, and we will commit a highly-skilled workforce with adequate numbers at all times."


Michael Wallace of Constellation and Unistar said this deal was the way to "most effectively assure skilled craft labour in adequate numbers for Calvert Cliffs and other Unistar projects later on." He added that all construction skills were in great demand: "Literally, we need them all."


The three parties said they hoped to make this first-time arrangement "a model for every nuclear power plant built in the country from this point forward."


Today the BCTD and Bechtel signed an agreement to complete negotiations this year on the fair wages, fringe benefits and working conditions for the 4000 workers needed to construct Calvert Cliffs 3. However, a true commitment to build Calvert Cliffs remains at least seven months away.


Loan guarantees


Wallace called on the US legislators and the Department of Energy (DoE) to work quickly and develop a loan-guarantee contract by November this year.


At present DoE plans to guarantee loans of up to 80% of the value of low-carbon energy projects are with legislators. Wallace called for them to be approved without delay and for DoE to then formalize arrangements for the deals. Constellation is already working on its application for loan guarantees, Wallace said.


If the DoE is ready to sign contracts for loan guarantees in November, then "we will be in a position to take the decision and ultimately break ground in December 2008 - a critically important milestone." said Wallace.

Jim Reinsch, president of Bechtel Nuclear, said that given labour support and loan guarantees, "there's no quesiton in my mind, the next press conference will be at Calvert with shovels in our hands breaking ground on Calvert Cliffs 3."


However, Wallace warned: "If we don't break ground then [December], the nuclear revival could be pushed back for two years or more."