When I got word that I was finally going to take a tour of the South Texas Project Nuclear Power Plant last week, I got very excited. For the last year and a half, writing about the nuclear plant has become the norm and I wanted something more than just an interview, listening to someone at the plant tell me what was going on and then having to type it out in an article. I wanted to experience the real thing.
This tour had been on my reporter’s bucket list for sometime.
I wanted a tour of the nuclear power plant I find myself writing about almost every other issue of the Matagorda Advocate.
You may find my eagerness to tour a nuclear plant strange, but ever since I moved to Bay City, the nuclear power plant and its role in this area intrigued me.
Also, I am a visual person, so that is why, when possible; I don’t like to just do phone interviews. In order to get a feel of the subject and situation at hand, one must experience. And if you are a lucky reporter like me and have the luxury of doing this, you take it.
After a briefing and a short video of the plant, four of us gathered for a tour and met with the queen of tours – Sheila Ormand.
My hat goes off to Sheila, she has been doing this for 15 years and does a great job about explaining everything step by step. She was even very patient with me because I had my cane. I know I must have slowed the group down each time we had to go up and down the stairs, and for that, I am grateful for her patience.
Once we began the tour, they gave us protective gear, yellow jump suits and radiation monitors. Just kidding, we didn’t wear yellow jump suits, but we might as well have been wearing one because I felt so safe and protected. I truly understand now the importance of “safety first” and why it is so important in a nuclear power plant to enforce such rules.
Walking through security check points and machines to check for radiation is of great importance. My cane even got checked out before we left one of the locations!
The best part of the tour was watching everyone working on the refueling outage. We were up close and could see everyone working together, with one goal in mind. It was a beautiful sight to see, so great that I completely forgot we were near a pool of radioactive water.
One thing that I was looking forward to, that we did not get to see was the Cerenkov Effect. That is the blue glow in the water, or in definition terms: The emission of light by a charged particle passing through a transparent no conducting liquid or solid material at a speed greater than the speed of light in that material.
Further into the tour, I got to see what the inside of the units that I have always wondered about looked like from the inside. We were inside looking in. there was a big opening on the side of dome, I assume it has some function, but I was so amazed that we were actually inside the nuclear unit that I didn’t listen to the rest Sheila’s presentation. (Sorry! I promise it was just that one time).
And all I wanted to do was to take a photo, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have a camera. A reporter’s worst nightmare! And I didn’t even have my phone with me either. So I did what many people did – I took a mental picture. I wish now that I could have taken a photo of that view. I could see unit 2 and blue sky from that location.
I consider myself very lucky to be a writer in a place that has many important issues to cover. Water issues, energy issues, education and rice farming – to name a few of course. All this has opened up the door to exploring and researching, and that is what I love about my job the most – the freedom to go out and learn on a daily basis.
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