Nuclear Power Plants: Keeping Us Warm During the Winter

When the weather outside is frightful, leading nuclear energy activist says it is nuclear energy that keeps us warm.

In a recent news release, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Vice President Richard Myers said, “During periods of extreme weather, nuclear energy’s importance to the U.S. electric grid and to the nation becomes more apparent than ever. Our nuclear energy facilities reliably generate large amounts of electricity, and they do so without the price volatility that can hammer customers financially.”

One of the attractive qualities of nuclear as an energy source is reliability even in extreme weather. Fossil fuel systems suffer during extreme cold as coal stacks and diesel generators freeze. Gas lines become stressed to keep up with rising demand. Meanwhile, all electricity providers are stressed when demand grows on the grid as it takes more power to keep homes at comfortable temperatures.

Nuclear, however, thrives in cold weather and was widely credited with keeping the lights on during the 2014 “polar vortex.” Following the storm, Forbes proclaimed, “Polar Vortex – Nuclear Saves the Day.” During the 2014 winter storm, the nation’s nuclear fleet performed at 95 percent capacity, far outpacing any other form of generation.

Nuclear performed similarly well during the recent cold weather that gripped the country and shutdown New York. As the Clean And Safe Energy (CASE) coalition explained, “Nuclear energy facilities operated at electric-sector leading levels of reliability in the face of freezing artic temperatures, helping to keep our homes warm and businesses humming. The value of America’s 99 nuclear energy facilities becomes ever clearer when our electric grid is strained.”

This is just one reason why nuclear is such a crucial component of a diverse energy portfolio.

Teacher Scholars Discuss the Nature of Energy

While teachers enjoy helping students learn about new subjects, teachers also enjoy learning and expanding their knowledge on subjects as well. In partnership with the Charlotte Teacher’s Institute(CTI) speaker series, the EnergyExplorium at McGuire Nuclear Station hosted an event for teachers to share what they learned from research projects related to energy. More than 70 people attended the event which provided an opportunity for  teachers to present their work focused on the theme: Teachers as Scholars: The Nature of Energy. Representing research conducted for elementary, middle, high school and university students, teacher also displayed their work and provided hands-on demonstrations to complement their research.

Discussion Topics and Presenters:

  • The Nature of Energy: How we use and Store it to Power Our Everyday Lives – Susan Trammell, Professor of Physics – UNC Charlotte
  • Energy in Our World – Cindy Woolery, Science Teacher – Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School
  • Crusing Continents and an Awesome Asthenosphere: Fueling Earth’s Ever Changing Surface – Julie Ruziska Tiddy – Science Teacher – Carmel Middle School
  • Mama did not Take the Kodachrome Away But Charge-Coupled Devices Did – Deb Semmler, Physics Teacher – East Mecklenburg High School

“Duke Energy is a strong supporter of CTI and we were honored to host the event at the EnergyExplorium,” says Christine Pulley, a member of the communications team at the EnergyExplorium. “As an energy education center we’re always looking for ways to educate the public on nuclear and other energy-related issues. We believe that when educators have an opportunity to expand their knowledge, it benefits their students and the overall classroom experience.”

The Charlotte Teachers Institute (CTI) is an initiative to strengthen teaching and learning in public schools. Led by classroom teachers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (Charlotte, N.C.) and professors at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College, CTI is founded on four pillars of strong professional development:  content knowledge, creativity, leadership and collaboration. In addition to hosting seminars for teachers, CTI hosts programs and special events to engage and educate teachers and the community at large.

Pen Pal Program Empowers Young Minds

Publication12,200. We’re not referring to the number of megawatts one of our nuclear plants produces. Instead, it’s the total number of students and employees who have participated in the pen pal programs at Catawba and McGuire nuclear stations since its start more than 10 years ago.

Initially, the pen pal program was created to help elementary school students improve their writing and reading skills by providing a fun and interactive way to practice and improve those skills. But, as it grew, the program has come to mean much more. Through letters and conversations with pen pals, employees spark students’ interest in careers they may have never known about. In return, the pen pal program has enabled employees to serve in mentorship roles, possibly empowering young students to pursue a career in the nuclear industry.

Each year, Catawba and McGuire nuclear station employees are paired with students who engage in spirited exchanges of ideas and updates throughout the school year. This year, nearly 90 eager employee pen pals, representing a variety of departments, are participating in the pen pal project, working with children via handwritten letters and connecting them in lasting ways.

“Not only does the project allow students to improve their penmanship, but writing about their world and reading about someone else’s helps build vocabulary and reading skills. It also develops critical thinking and problem solving skills and helps children feel connected by sharing their stories and reading about another person’s life experiences” explains Lisa Leonard, a long-time pen pal at McGuire.

After several months of sharing letters, pen pals meet face-to-face to share conversations and experiences over a picnic lunch and games.