TES students learn about nuclear power

Published 6:34 am Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The fifth grade students at Troy Elementary School got a lesson on nuclear energy Tuesday as the old saying goes, “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

Neecie Tarrant, senior communication specialist at Farley Nuclear Plant near Dothan, spoke to several classes about nuclear energy and the role that it will play in their lives 20 years from now.

Tarrant told that students that what Farley Nuclear Plant does is “make electricity.”

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“Farley Nuclear Plant is an old plant,” Tarrant said. “Construction began on the plant in 1972 and it began generating electricity in 1977. The plant runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has generated more than 330 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.”

Tarrant told the students that most of the electricity generated in the United States comes from coal at about 51 percent, with nuclear energy at 20 percent and gas at 16 percent. Only 2.3 percent of the nation’s electricity is generated by renewable sources.

She polled the students who quickly named three forms of renewable energy sources– the sun, wind and water.

“In 20 years, this country’s energy needs will increase by 44 percent,” Tarrant said. “We will need an adequate energy source that is inexpensive and one that is good for the environment.”

Coal, oil and natural gas are currently the largest sources of energy and they will last a long time, Tarrant said.

The sun is a renewable energy source but it has not been developed except for special applications because of its high costs.

So, because nuclear energy is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it is at the forefront of future energy sources, Tarrant said.

She explained that nuclear energy comes from the splitting of atoms, which causes energy to be released, and that energy is bottled up inside a small pellet.

“The nuclear energy in one pellet is equal to the energy produced by one ton of coal, two and a half tons of wood or 149 gallons of oil,” Tarrant said.

One pellet also produces enough energy to run a hospital without interruption during an emergency situation.

The fifth grade students at Troy Elementary School now know more about nuclear energy and the nearby plant that produces it. They agreed that it will be nuclear energy that will “power” them and their children into the near future.