Since the introduction of electricity, public education campaigns were part of doing business. People were reluctant to buy appliances and subscribe to electrical service having no experience with the new technology. Potential customers struggled with the technology change from wood-fired to electric appliances so detailed instructions were needed. For example, a cookbook from 1911 has this entry for use of a toaster:
Turn the current on the toaster about two minutes before you are ready to use it. Have the bread cut in even slices about one-half inch thick; trim off the crust. The toaster will hold two large slices or four small slices at one time and will brown nicely on both sides in about one minute.
The toaster can be used for 15 minutes at a cost of about 1 ½ cents. [i]
Public information, education and marketing often intersect when new technology becomes available. Nuclear energy was no exception. Education Centers were often established at sites before construction of a new plant was finished, allowing future plant neighbors to learn first-hand about nuclear science and plant operations.
The same is true of Duke Energy. Our first nuclear education center, the World of Energy at Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca, S.C., was opened in 1969 and the plant began producing electricity in 1973. Today, the education centers across the Duke Energy service territories promote an understanding of nuclear technology, support STEM education and often host community events. Each of the four education centers is unique; learn more about each below.
World of Energy | Oconee Nuclear Station, Seneca, S.C.
The Keowee-Toxaway Visitors Center opened July 1, 1969, as the public jewel of (then) Duke Power’s Keowee-Toxaway Project and Oconee Nuclear Station. The facility featured state-of-the art energy exhibits, a topographical map of the Keowee-Toxaway Project, a 125-seat auditorium, and viewing decks to watch construction of Oconee Nuclear Station, the largest nuclear power plant in the world at the time, dams and the filling of Lake Keowee. Within the first year, more than 250,000 people visited the center.
In 1972, the facility earned the President’s Award for the #1 tourist attraction in South Carolina. Throughout the 1970s, it continued to earn awards as a premiere visitor attraction in South Carolina. In 1985, the Keowee-Toxaway Visitors Center became the World of Energy. In the mid-1990s, the World of Energy included as attractions a butterfly garden, picnic area, nature trail and boat dock.
The World of Energy celebrated 50 years of energy education in July 2019. For decades, the center has remained a free, public education center that hosts walk-in visitors, school groups and civic organizations for educational programs and community events.
Brunswick Energy and Education Center | Brunswick Nuclear Plant, Southport, N.C.
Prior to 1975 when the Brunswick Nuclear Plant first began generating electricity, an education center was opened to provide information to the public about the plant and general nuclear science. That center operated for decades focusing especially on middle-school aged students.
The original Brunswick education center was damaged by Hurricane Florence in 2018. The storm was one of the worst hurricanes to hit the southeastern North Carolina coast, bringing over 35 inches of rain to the area.
We are happy to announce that a new education center is now open for the Brunswick Nuclear Plant on a by appointment only basis. Exhibits include the original plant model, information on nuclear fuel, radiation and the environment, plus ways for the public to learn about careers in the nuclear industry. Groups of 5 to 25 are ideal to visit the center.
Harris Energy & Environmental Center | Harris Nuclear Plant, New Hill, N.C.
In 1979, eight years before the Harris Nuclear Plant began commercial operation, the Harris Energy & Environmental Center was opened with a mission to develop and maintain favorable attitudes about the soon-coming nuclear plant.
Since then, over 2,000 visitors come through the center every year. Over half of these visitors are school children and the remainder represents local residents, civic and professional clubs, environmental organizations, community leaders and elected officials.
The center hosts an annual Community Day event, which gives the public an opportunity to visit the center, interact with plant staff and many neighboring partners, including Harris Lake Park.
The Harris Energy & Environmental Center is:
- a fun and educational place for the public to learn about Duke Energy and our nuclear plants
- a clearinghouse for information and programs about electricity and energy
- active in the surrounding communities and recognized as a contributor to improving the quality of life in the area
- a friend to the environment
EnergyExplorium | McGuire Nuclear Station, Huntersville, N.C.
The largest engineered lake in North Carolina, Lake Norman was originally created between 1959 and 1964 as part of the construction of the Cowans Ford Dam. Today the lake is also home to Marshall Steam Station and McGuire Nuclear Station. The EnergyExplorium was opened in anticipation of operations at McGuire Nuclear Station in 1981 which now makes more than 2,300 megawatts, enough power for more than 1.7 million homes.
The EnergyExplorium offers an excellent opportunity to learn how electricity is generated. Open by appointment only, the center includes opportunities to:
- Participate in interactive games.
- Learn valuable lessons about electricity, nuclear energy and the environment.
- Explore a mile-long nature trail that borders Lake Norman with a backpack filled with nature guides and activities.
- Spend some time at the covered picnic area that overlooks Lake Norman.
These centers all contribute to our dedication to serving our communities. Originally there were also education centers at the Robinson Nuclear Plant and Catawba Nuclear Station until 2001. When the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 occurred, power plants across the nation went into lock-down and education centers were temporarily closed. Following a number of responses taken by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and substantial increases in security at plant sites, it was not feasible to re-open all of the education centers. Regardless, community outreach and STEM education remain high priorities at all our nuclear sites.
Next time you have a question about nuclear science, contact one of our education centers and come visit!
In addition, you can use any of our educational materials which include activities and assignments designed for teachers and homeschool groups.
[i] New York Edison Company (1911). Recipes for cooking by electricity. New York: Edison Company, p. 5.
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