What is nuclear energy's role during the solar eclipse?

Much has changed since the last Pacific-to-Atlantic total solar eclipse across the U.S in June 1918 – the first such eclipse in American history.

That year, the Red Sox claimed a World Series victory. General Motors bought a then small car company called Chevrolet. Petroleum and wood were used less than hydro for energy production, and what was called “The Great War” was grinding on for the fourth and final year. The year before, in 1917, the Wateree Power Company (later called Duke Power) was formed as a holding company for several utilities that had been founded and/or owned by James Buchanan Duke. And nuclear energy was decades away.

The 1918 eclipse path is very similar to the Aug. 21, 2017 crossing – starting in Oregon but this time on a more southerly route, exiting in north Florida. There were no nuclear energy stations in the path of totality in 1918. In 2017, there are several that have a combined capacity of more than 9,500 megawatts – Columbia in Washington; Callaway in Missouri; Watts Bar 1 and 2 and Sequoyah 1 and 2 in Tennessee; and Oconee in South Carolina.  In addition, all U.S. nuclear stations are in the shadow of the eclipse, on land outside the path of totality.

Fortunately, nuclear plans generate electricity no matter what the weather or time of day, so the eclipse will not impact operations. In fact, nuclear is an important part of Duke Energy’s diverse energy mix which will help keep the lights on. When the eclipse passes over North Carolina from 1 to 3 p.m. next Monday, solar output in the state is expected to drop from about 2,500 megawatts to 200 megawatts in 1 1/2 hours. But because Duke Energy has many other energy options and a plan in place, the company expects to meet customer demand during this unusual event.

In addition to meeting energy demands, Duke Energy is also planning for the eclipse in other ways. Oconee Nuclear Station will host the pubic at the World of Energy to experience the spectacular event. Besides a great view, visitors can also enjoy presentations, music and special eclipse narration by recently-retired NASA Deputy Chief Technologist, Jim Adams.  

“The eclipse fits well into the World of Energy’s education mission,” said Chris Rimel, World of Energy manager and communications manager for Duke’s South Carolina nuclear fleet. “I’m hopeful the lawn will be packed with visitors watching the sky that afternoon.”

No matter where you view the Great American Eclipse, you’d better catch it while you can. The next coast-to-coast total solar eclipse won’t happen again until 2045.


Comments (1)

Posted August 17, 2017 by Teresa Alexander
We will also be offering hot dog plates, sodas & water, ice cream, sno-cones and t-shirts. All profits will go directly to Relay for Life and the United Way!

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