Virginia finds itself in an unusual position

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Print this page Robert C. Powell III

Thirty years ago, an accident at the Three Mile Island power plant in Pennsylvania appeared to sound the death knell for an already retreating nuclear energy industry in the United States. Today, however, nuclear power is getting a second look because of concerns about global warming and our increasing dependence on foreign energy sources.

Virginia, a laggard on so many trends, appears to be in the forefront of this new nuclear age. As Richmond writer Garry Kranz points out in our cover story, Dominion Virginia Power may be among the first utilities to win federal approval for a new nuclear unit. But Virginia’s involvement in nuclear energy extends beyond the state’s largest electric utility. Nuclear equipment and engineering companies Areva and Babcock & Wilcox in Lynchburg are gearing up for anticipated demand, and Areva is participating in a joint venture with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News. On top of all that is the possibility of uranium mining in Pittsylvania County, an issue that has sharply divided Southern Virginia residents.

In addition to exploring trends in energy, the July issue also introduces a new feature — profiles of five top women in commercial real estate. The women were selected from 22 nominated by companies around the state. The profiles, written by Rex Bowman, Bill Geroux and Managing Editor Paula C. Squires, show that hard work, commitment and the ability to respond quickly are the ingredients for success in real estate during these tough times.

Architects, meanwhile, are looking for a means of survival in an industry hard-hit by the recession.  Richmond writer Marilyn Shaw reports that some think they have found a lifeline in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the growing industry movement toward sustainability. These architects believe that LEED could have a transforming effect on architecture just as the Americans with Disabilities Act did in the early 1990s.

Another defining industry movement is the growing demand for IT workers specializing in cyber security. Amherst County-based writer Heather B. Hayes finds that recent breaches of security have re-emphasized the need for Virginia’s IT schools to produce more professionals with certification and training in security.

Developments in technology, of course, represent opportunities as well as threats. Fredericksburg writer Robert Burke relates how many companies are learning to harness social media vehicles such as Twitter and Facebook to maintain contact with customers.

Charlottesville is trying to keep customers happy at its downtown mall. The mall, which has undergone an extensive upgrade, is one of the region’s main attractions. But Charlottesville writer Carlos Santos notes that the real engine of the local economy remains the 190-year-old University of Virginia, which employs 20,000 people.

Some things don’t change, even in a new nuclear age.

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