Saturday, March 28, 2009
North Anna Nuclear Power Station
Ah, Spring. And what better spring outing than a visit to our own nuclear power plant? Actually, our intent was to spend a little time at the North Anna Nuclear Information Center, the visitor center at Dominion’s power station, which we figured would take around 30 minutes or so, and then stop at the Lake Anna Winery on the way home. Instead, we ended up spending over 2 hours at the information center, chatting with Mike Duffey, the center’s coordinator, learning more about nuclear power than I will ever need to know, and discussing the future of energy production in the U.S.
It was a very educational experience for me, who is not particularly scientifically inclined. I definitely felt only about as smart as a fifth grader, and if I had been in a group, I would have stayed at the back, hoping Mike wouldn’t call on me to answer any questions. I learned about nuclear fission, followed the process of producing electricity from the uranium mine to the light switch, saw a film about managing nuclear waste, and heard a bit about alternative energy sources. The center has all kinds of hands-on exhibits (Pedal a bike to create electricity! Use your body to complete the electrical circuit! Play the energy trivia game!) which makes it a favorite of school groups. I’d recommend it highly for upper elementary or middle school students with an interest in science.
Of course, the presentation is designed to present nuclear power in the best possible light. The bass on display only had one head, and no one mentions Homer Simpson (well, except me). Alternative energy sources like solar and wind power are dismissed as being unable to handle the constant demands of the average American household. You’d need to do a little research on your own to find out the latest advances in alternative energy, or to discover new ways to conserve. But aside from the expected pro “big utility” spin, I found the visit to be educational and engaging. The center is open weekdays from 9 to 4, and admission is free.
And we’ll just have to save the Lake Anna Winery for another time.