A jolt of jobs and investment is coming to GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy campus in Castle Hayne.
The company plans to expand its operation at 3901 Castle Hayne Road by about 500 jobs in the next five years, according to an announcement Friday afternoon. The jobs have an average salary of $131,000.
Additionally, officials ceremonially broke ground Friday on a new $200 million fuel facility at the site. The building itself has an estimated value of $85 million.
The new employees, said Jay Wileman, GEH president and CEO, will support the future of advanced nuclear growth, including the commercial deployment of the BWRX-300 small modular reactor.
“These new, high-paying jobs will position us to lead the nuclear energy industry into the future, help customers meet climate goals and have significant impact on the region’s economy,” said Wileman, who also noted that GEH has hired more than 250 people just this year.
Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A), a GE-led joint venture, and TerraPower, a Bill Gates-founded nuclear innovation company, also announced an agreement to build the Natrium Fuel Facility at the Castle Hayne plant.
The new GE employees will also boost the Natrium reactor technology being jointly developed by GEH and TerraPower.
“The Natrium Fuel Facility will help establish the fuel supply chain that will be required for the U.S. deploy advanced reactors domestically and globally,” said Tammy Orr, senior vice president of fuel products for GNF-A in a news release.
Brand name Natrium technology involves "a 345-megawatt sodium fast reactor coupled with a molten salt-based integrated energy storage system," according to Natrium's website.
The Natrium facility will be jointly funded by TerraPower and the U.S. Department of Energy through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, officials said. The program "aims to speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with U.S. industry," the release stated.
Meanwhile, the BWRX-300 (rendering shown below)
is gaining global interest, GEH officials said Friday. GEH was selected by Ontario Power Generation as its technology partner for the Darlington New Nuclear, and in August 2022, GEH entered into an agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to support planning and preliminary licensing for the potential deployment of the BWRX-300 at the Clinch River Site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
All of Friday’s news is good news for the Wilmington area, said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. The city of Wilmington and New Hanover County have provided a total of $1.5 million in performance-based incentives.
“This is not only good for us locally but it is good for the world,” Saffo said at Friday's event. “Their efforts are reducing carbon emissions and positively impacting the environment.”
The new GEH positions "will result in an annual payroll impact of more than $63.5 million across the region. New Hanover County is providing $1.25 million and the City of Wilmington is providing $250,000 in performance-based economic incentives over five years in support of this expansion," according to a news release from Wilmington Business Development, the local economic development agency which helped facilitate the incentives.
Scott Satterfield, CEO of WBD, said at Friday's event, "When I think of our regional economy, among the things that I am most grateful for are the global industrial legends doing business right here in our region. GE has thrived in Wilmington since the 1960s and between its nuclear and aviation divisions, it now constiuttes one of the nation's largest and one of our largest private employers."
Economic development officials said in March that the company had considered investing in its expansion, nicknamed "Project Clear"
in incentive talks, elsewhere in the U.S.
In November last year, GE officials announced that General Electric Inc. will be split
into three public companies focused on aviation, health care and energy. The move came after more than a decade of losses for the Boston-headquartered corporation.
As part of the announcement, officials said GE will combine GE Renewable Energy, GE Power and GE Digital divisions into one business, with the aim of creating a tax-free spin-off of that business in early 2024.