Letter: Holtec plant a good-faith effort to help Camden’s poor

    Kris Singh

    Kris Singh

    In his Nov. 10 article, “Was N.J. ‘betting on wrong horse’ in giving Holtec $260M tax break for Camden Move,” Joe Hernandez makes a saucy insinuation about our company’s prospects spiced by dark speculations by an armchair academician from Princeton.

    Camden is desperately poor and it does indeed need low-skilled jobs. What Professor Ramana of Princeton does not realize is that sophisticated technology is helping bridge the skill gap between the machine and the man like never before. Our state-of-the-art machines in our Camden plant are designed to minimize the needed skill level of the worker so that any minimally educated but willing and motivated Camden resident can be employed at our plant. We thank the local trade schools and institutes who are helping train Camden’s young people, who will henceforth have a path out of the blight and bleakness wreaked on our inner city neighborhoods by peddlers of drugs and violence. Our Camden plant will prove that high technology can rise to the task of rejuvenating our distressed cities by providing meaningful jobs to the poor and the unprivileged. 

    Ours is a diversified technology company that has been growing at the rate of roughly 20 percent per year. We expect to grow employment in Camden steadily with or without small modular reactor sales. The esteemed professor’s prediction that we will operate the plant for a couple of years, then close after collecting the state of New Jersey’s incentive fund, is sheer nonsense. After meeting the expenditure ($260 million) and jobs (approximately 400 minimum), Holtec will receive one-tenth of the total credit in annual payments from the state in equal installments over the following 10 years. Failure to meet the employment covenant on our part in any year will suspend the state’s tax credit. Our public servants in the state are no fools.

    The net present value of the state’s 10-year disbursal after federal taxes computes to roughly $135 million against our estimated investment of $320 million that we would have made in Camden by July of next year. New Jersey’s incentive is nice, but it is hardly a free ride.

    For the past 18 months, hundreds of local craftsmen have been erecting the mammoth plant and other structures at our Camden Campus. The worker roll this week at the site is over 400. In parallel, we have been sending our locally educated young men, many from Camden, to our plant in Orville, Ohio, where they are getting hands-on training. Even before we open, we are already making a difference in the lives of hundreds of local families in the region.

    A $320 million investment is a large risk for anyone. It is certainly so for a company of our size. We are making it because we believe that successful companies owe it to society to help the less fortunate amongst us. Our associates believe in our shared goal and are willing to leave our leafy campus in suburban Marlton, N.J., to commute daily to a congested locale in the poorest city in America. The media should not act to dampen their enthusiasm or belittle their commitment to our cause.

    In the spring of next year, our Technology Campus will be complete and soon after will be transformed into a beehive of industrial vibrancy. Our dedicated work force committed to our company’s growth and prosperity will see to it that we make a measurable impact on the host city and the surrounding communities. And we continue to do well while we are doing good.

    Finally, returning to our small modular reactor program on which we pin our hopes for a major expansion of the workforce in Camden. Our SMR-160 is like no reactor conceived by anyone: It is “walk away” safe. In other words, it will look after itself regardless of the calamity that may visit upon it: Earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, or wanton acts of terror; you name it.

    We believe our nation needs a diversified energy mix in which solar, wind, and yes, nuclear, must play a part. Four-fifths of humankind does not have steady access to electrical energy. Lack of power stunts industrial growth and affects virtually all aspects of the quality of life in a society. Our resolve to develop a carbon-free energy that is affordable for the world’s multitudes is a moral imperative of our age. With the risk of environmental damage from an accident eliminated by design, I believe even those progressives who chant the melodies of wind and solar will come around to admitting the compelling benefits of our nuclear reactor.

    Our business vision is long term; we will wait out the inevitable change in the social consensus. In the meantime, we are buoyed by strong interest from overseas, from countries that look upon nuclear energy as the anchor for humankind’s bid to rescue our planet from the chokehold of escalating carbon concentration. To those countries, nuclear power is the answer to a rapidly degrading environment. They will likely be our first mover customers of SMR-160.

    Dr. Kris Singh is president and CEO of Holtec International.

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