On June 29, 1985, Catawba Nuclear Station, sitting on Lake Wylie’s South Carolina side, began commercial operations.
In honor of the station’s 35th anniversary of powering the Carolinas, we share 35 fun facts about this site that produces 2,310 megawatts to power 1.4 million homes each year:
- Catawba’s generating capacity on June 29, 1985 was 1,145 megawatts.
- Catawba was designed to withstand the Charleston, S.C., earthquake of 1886, the strongest in recorded history at an estimated 6.6-7.3 on the Richter scale to hit the southeastern United States.
- All the cable (1,566 miles) used during Catawba’s construction would stretch from the station to Denver, Colo.
- The station is one of only two in Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet to have cooling towers. (The other is Harris Nuclear Station in New Hill, N.C.)
- During the late 1970s, no vending machines (including beverages) were allowed on-site.
Each of Catawba’s six cooling towers circulate 210,000 gallons of water each minute.
- There are 89 emergency sirens within Catawba’s 10-mile emergency planning zone.
- In May 2002, Catawba set a world record (for that time) for a refueling outage, completing work on unit 1 in just 21 days.
- Catawba boasted more than 4,000 employees during peak construction.
- Those workers took 50 million work-hours to build the plant (enough to build 50,000 homes).
- Catawba’s site sports a helicopter pad.
- Today, Catawba employees nearly 800 people.
- Catawba’s longest refueling outage lasted 113.34 days, from June to October, in 1996.
- Catawba’s construction used enough concrete (600,000 cubic yards) to build a three-foot-wide sidewalk from the plant to Seattle, Wash.
- Each one of Catawba’s reactor vessels weighs the same as 619 compact cars.
- 30 million gallons of water per day evaporate from Catawba’s cooling towers.
- There are 13,858,944 nuclear fuel pellets per reactor.
- As a child, Catawba’s current site vice president, Tom Simril, played in the woods that stood on Catawba’s land before construction (His grandparents lived on the peninsula where the plant is situated.).
- Enough steel (13,000 tons) was used during construction to build about 10,000 compact cars.
- Unit 1 split its first atom on Jan. 7, 1985.
- Catawba sits on a solid sheet of bedrock 60 feet below ground level.
- Catawba has four owners: North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number One, North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, Piedmont Municipal Power Agency and Duke Energy.
Catawba’s turbine generators spin at 1,800 revolutions per minute.
- The piping (452,000 linear feet) used during building Catawba would provide plumbing to 2,260 average homes.
- The weight of the fuel in one of Catawba’s reactor cores is 108.25 tons and produces as much energy as 6,000,000 tons of coal.
- Catawba cost approximately $3.6 billion to build.
- Duke Energy excavated more than 5.2 million tons of earth to build Catawba.
- There are nearly 2,100 motors in operation at Catawba.
- Catawba’s cooling towers circulate 1,380,000 gallons of water per minute.
- The site hosted a wildlife food plot in the mid-1990s.
- In 1991, Catawba’s softball team travelled to St. Louis, Mo. to play in a world championship tournament (They placed fourth overall.).
- Catawba has 28,442 valves.
- Unit 2 began commercial operations on Aug. 19, 1986.
- Catawba received its first license extension for an additional 20 years of operation in December 2003, enabling the plant to operate until 2043.
- Catawba can power 6.5 million streetlights simultaneously when both units are operating at full power.
Learn more about Catawba’s history here.