Industries rely on nuclear power

Electricity isn’t just used for flipping the lights on in your house, charging your newest smart phone or heating your home on a cold night. Electricity is critical to the operation of key industries such as manufacturing, food production, agriculture and computer products—industries that together form the foundation of the American economy.

The industrial sector in the United States consumes more energy than in any other country.  The chemical industry is the largest consumer of electricity in the United States. Chemical companies need the power of 17 large power plants annually to make chemicals used in agriculture, medicines and more.  In one year, the computer and electronics industry alone can consume the amount of electricity generated from four nuclear  power plants.  (Nuclear’s Reliability Vital for Industrial Users, NEI, August 2014)

US. Energy Information AdministrationSo how does nuclear power fit into the growing electricity needs of the industrial sector? Reliability of electricity is important to avoid interruptions of power that can halt the production of goods, damage equipment and result in economic losses.

The average nuclear energy facility produces power 90 percent of the time, providing large amounts of electricity around the clock. Nuclear power is not affected by changing weather and climate conditions or fluctuating fuel prices, allowing for reliable and low-cost electricity.

Industrial energy consumption is expected to grow an average of 1.4 percent each year through 2040. Nuclear power plants have the ability to meet this growing demand and power the industries that drive US and global economies.

Read more about global energy consumption from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the unmatched reliability of nuclear power from the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Nuclear energy’s future is green

The Nuclear Energy Institute, a pro-nuclear power organization, recently launched a Future of Energy campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to promote the positive attributes of nuclear energy, including its crucial role in America’s diverse energy portfolio, and to highlight the work and experience of nuclear professionals.  

One aspect of the campaign is environmentally friendly nature of nuclear energy. While there are numerous advantages to nuclear energy, its role as the nation’s largest clean-air source of energy is arguably the most important.  

Nuclear energy leaves a small footprint.  While producing 20 percent of the nation’s energy, nuclear energy produces no carbon emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy and Energy Information Administration call nuclear “the single most effective emission control strategy for utilities…

The improvement to the environment is real and measurable.  It’s estimated that the use of nuclear energy facilities avoided approximately 590 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013. This is the equivalent of the carbon dioxide released from 113 million cars. This is one reason why the US has been able to achieve its targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

It’s not just carbon dioxide. Nuclear energy also offsets about one million tons of sulfur dioxide from reaching the atmosphere in the United States each year. This reflects the amount released by 25 million cars. While nuclear energy isn’t allocated sulfur dioxide credits under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment, if it were, its estimated the credits would be worth an estimated $50 million.

The environmentally friendly aspect of nuclear is just one of the many reasons the industry remains poised to be a safe, efficient and reliable form of energy generation for years to come.

Catawba Nuclear Station: Through a different lens

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Morning comes to Catawba Nuclear Station, located in York County, S. C. on Lake Wylie. The two units at Catawba generate approximately 2,258 megawatts of electricity—enough electricity to power approximately one million homes—making it the second-largest operating nuclear plant in Duke Energy’s fleet.

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Each of the two units at Catawba has two emergency diesel generators that can provide power to the station in an emergency. One generator can provide more than enough power to safely shut down the unit.

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Catawba Nuclear Station has six cooling towers, three for each unit. What you see rising from the towers is actually water vapor, or steam.

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Stairs leading to the top of the cooling towers. Each ascending circular level of the cooling tower cantilevers slightly over the level below (looking similar to an upside down lamp shade).

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The cooling towers are huge circular concrete structures, seven stories high, and 270 feet in diameter (almost one football field) with thirteen huge (28 feet) fans on the top deck. Each tower circulates about 210,000 gallons of water per minute.

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The switchyard—where power from the nuclear station first stops on the way to  customers.

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The whole process of making electricity is monitored in the control room where is a team of operators licensed by the federal government makes sure our plant operates safely and efficiently. To maintain their licenses, operators must complete requalification training and examination programs — spending one week of every five weeks in required training for the duration of their careers. Additionally, they must pass exams to be certified physically and mentally fit to be an operator.