Oconee Nuclear Station
Oconee Nuclear Station is a power plant situated on Lake Keowee, which is near Seneca, South Carolina. It has been operational since 1973 and was the second nuclear plant in the country to receive an additional 20 year extension to its license. It is currently both owned and operated by Duke Energy and has three water reactors which produce a total of 2,538 megawatts. This enables the plant to produce an annual amount of energy, approximately 20,565 GWh. Additionally, this has enabled it to generate over 500 million megawatt-hours of electricity in its history, making it the first power station in the United States to hit this figure.
The Oconee plant produces electricity with three Babcock & Wilcox lowered-loop pressurized water reactors, each of which is capable of creating 846 MW of power. The plant draws cooling water from Lake Keowee and discharges it back in the Keowee River just above the dam. Over the past decade, the facilities have undergone extensive digital modernization to improve safety and enhance operations.
Throughout the history of Oconee Nuclear Station, there have been no major events to cause concern amongst the public, although there have been a small number of minor incidents that had to be rectified. One of these occurred in the 1980s, when the systems that monitored control and protection aspects began to not support some of the older technology that was still in use. This was quickly rectified with the addition of new equipment to the affected areas.
Due to the fact that Oconee Nuclear Station was built in the early 1970s, like so many facilities at the time, it probably utilized asbestos, which was installed during the initial construction. In the mid-20th century, asbestos was seen as the best way to counter the massive heat produced by the reactors. Though there are now strict regulations involving asbestos exposure in the work place, for many years, employees remained unaware of and unprotected from the dangers. Sometimes, their employers knew, but chose not to make the information public. Sadly, many former power plant workers have developed asbestosis or mesothelioma as a direct result of this negligence.