So there I was, just a nerdy high school student on a school field trip to a nuclear power plant. I wandered off behind the group to check out the generators when all of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain on my hand. I looked down and saw a spider crawling away towards the reactor….
Wait… I think that’s the start of another story.
This is the story of the interns trip to the Bruce Power nuclear plant in Bruce County. No spiders, and (sadly) no superpowers.
Bruce Power arranged for a bus to pick us up at Queen’s Park to drive us just over 3 hours to the site of the plants. The drive included lots of agricultural farms, several other farms, and a stop at a small town Tim Hortons. We arrived at the visitor’s centre where we ate lunch and met with James, Greg, and Rob who talked to us about the energy supply mix in Ontario and the public’s perceptions of nuclear power. Nuclear energy makes up over 50% of Ontario’s energy supply, and Bruce Power alone supplies 25-30%. They like to say every fourth light bulb in the province is lit thanks to them. Very impressive!
We then got a tour of the visitor centre which included a video presentation on how nuclear fission heats water to create steam, which spins turbines. The steam is recycled and piped to other businesses that can use it. The heavy water, which circulates in the reactor, is also reused over and over within the reactor. This decreases the amount of water required by the plant to function.
The nuclear waste created by energy production is all housed on the Bruce Power site in a warehouse. The Canadian government is exploring options for deep ground repositories for radioactive waste, which remains dangerous for thousands of years. When considering where and how to store nuclear waste, they have to speculate about what the world might be like in several thousand years. What symbols or languages will we be able to use to warn future generations of the potential dangers of radioactive waste? It was pretty weird to think about having to plan for thousands of years in the future, but pretty cool too. Maybe that’s a superpower in itself!
When we actually went into the plant, we all donned our protective shoes, hard hats, goggles, and earmufflers – all standard issue for nuclear power plant employees. We then went through several security and radioactive screens to ensure that we were all cleared to enter the plant. Seeing the control room was way more impressive than it looks on an episode of the Simpsons. Each of the four units had rows of lights and switches where they can monitor and control many aspects of the reactors remotely, such as refueling.
The tour was really informative and it was cool to learn more about the plant that produces such a large portion of Ontario’s energy. Thanks to Bruce Power for bringing us out to the plant and for supporting OLIP!
Just as we left to return to Toronto, we got caught in lake effect snow and it looked like a real blizzard. Looks like Bruce Power has their job cut out for them keeping us warm this winter!