Can you describe what makes our community so special? What do you feel about our nuclear industries? Have you tested your beliefs lately? Did you attend any of the many public educational events last week: Teller Lecture, Pandora’s Promise Movie, or the Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness Educational Forum?

I did and have to say that it was worthwhile, informational and enlightening. I learned that more than $1 out of every $4 spent in our region is a result of our nuclear industries, the same for occupied homes – 1 of every 4. A majority of the support going to our local charities is from our Nuclear Community. Throughout the week, I learned how important the nuclear industries are to our nation’s security, to our state’s competitiveness and to our local quality of life.

At the national level, our nuclear community provides national security through a Strategic Deterrent Capability, through enhancing our non-proliferation efforts and by contributing to homeland security sensors, detection and forensics. All together we contribute more than any other region. The Savannah River Site, a part of our nuclear industry, provides national leadership for the care of our environment.

We have the Department of Energy’s only Environmental Management National Laboratory, and while it also does many other things, it leads in providing science, techniques, procedures and standards for the world in the care of nuclear materials. We also lead the nation in energy security through the percentage of clean, reliable and economical “base load” nuclear provided electrical power.

At the state level, the nuclear industries provide low and stable electrical rates that are driving our economic engines. They are among the largest employers in the state, providing jobs, local procurement and tax revenue. The nuclear culture of professionalism, exactness, safety and “measure twice cut once” spills over into other industries and makes them better. Locally, besides their very significant economic impact – $1 out of every $4 spent in our town – these industries have contributed to what Aiken ”is” and provide a promise for what it can be. Its contributions to our region are immense: a shared history, a “glue” to hold together our community, the strengthening of our social capital, political capital and financial capital, the volunteer leadership in our community agencies, our social groups, our church activities and our recreational programs. Our region would not be as we know it without our nuclear community.

Whether you understand the nuclear industry or not, can articulate its value or not; it’s good to reflect on how you view it and why you feel that way. I would suggest you watch or set your DVR/VCR’s to record the Robert Stone movie “Pandora’s Promise.” It is scheduled to air on CNN on Nov. 7 at 9 p.m.

Healthy communities understand and support the industries and cultures that make them special.

In our case that is our nuclear community, our manufacturing industries, our equestrian sector, the retirement communities and Aiken’s rich historical roots. This month is a good time to learn more about the value provided to us by our nuclear community.

Charles Munns is an Aiken resident, a vice admiral in the U.S. Navy and former CEO of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC.