The brainchild of Duke Energy and Areva, a French energy company, could be a new multi-billion dollar nuclear power plant in Pike County, Ohio. The plans for the new plant were announced Thursday, June 18 at the site of a former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio. However, Rita Sipe, spokeswoman for Duke Energy based in Charlotte, North Carolina says don't get too excited: the proposal just means that the possibility for the new plant is open.
The plant would bring in the much-needed benefits of clean energy and job opportunities to Appalachia. There are 13 main coal-powered power plants in Ohio. There are only two other nuclear plants in Ohio. The last nuclear plant comissioned in the United States was River Bend plant in Louisiana, with construction beginning in March of 1977. There was a general rise against nuclear power in the late 20th century after the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. However, these accidents are extremely rare, much rarer than the fires and other accidents at your typical natural gas and coal-fired plants. Currently, 17 percent of power in the United States is produced by nuclear power plants.
According to an article
published in The Columbus Dispatch by Jonathan Riskind, "The argument among environmentalists and nuclear power proponents is whether nuclear power is a so-called 'green,' non-greenhouse-gas emitting energy that should be part of an alternative energy scheme that includes solar and wind power to help a state such as Ohio move away from depending on coal-fired utility plants for electricity."
Nuclear power is a clean, simple operation, involving nuclear fission, the splitting of an atom. An atom of Uranium is split, releasing heat
that boils water. The steam from the boiling water then powers a turbine which is connected to a generator that then creates electricity. (Yes, this is a very 'in-a-nutshell' description. For a more orthodox, in-depth learning experience, check out what the folks at howstuffworks.com have put together here.
) In natural gas and coal-powered plants, fossil fuels are burned to create this same heat that begins the same process. The damage? Greenhouse gases are emitted as a result of these plants, releasing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and other chemicals. Nuclear plant emissions? Oh, that horribly noxious chemical of...water vapor.
So let's hope this new plant can make some steam and start the 10-year construction project that will produce more jobs and less pollution from Ohio.
Top left photo from Columbus Dispatch article, showing potential site of new power plant in 2001 when it was a uranium enrichment plant.