A casual observer at a nuclear power plant these days might notice a peculiar phenomenon: lots of receding hairlines and graying temples at the controls. Within the next decade, most of the nation's highly skilled nuclear specialists -- engineers, plant operators, maintenance technicians, radiation chemists and fuel assembly designers -- will become pensioners.
The retirement wave comes at a crucial time, just as the nation's utilities are preparing to build the first new nuclear plants in several decades.
The nuclear industry is scrambling to replace its aging work force, much as it refits old power plants with new valves and pumps. Job opportunities suddenly abound at companies that design the plants, at the regulatory agency that licenses and inspects reactors, at the consulting firms brought in to navigate the complex licensing process and at contractor shops used for maintenance and construction.
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