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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Engineering Students Tour Surry Nuclear Power Plant

A group of students from Old Dominion University's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology recently went on a tour of the Surry Nuclear Power Plant, designed to showcase an example of the local jobs available to aspiring engineers.

The 20-student delegation, led by Serita Young and William Chambers, officers of the National Society of Black Engineers, took a two-hour tour of the facility, located in Surry County on the west bank of the James River, about 40 miles from the ODU campus. The students were awed by what they saw.

"I really enjoyed the tour. I was amazed by the huge steam turbines and how much energy output they produce," said JaMahl Sapp, a mechanical engineering major from Richmond.

Dana Griffin, an aerospace engineering major from Mechanicsville, said the tour took the students throughout the facility, from the water ducts where 1.5 million gallons of water are pulled from the James River every minute, to the turbine hall where the generators and turbines are located, to the 12 huge transformers directing the power generated by the plant into lines that transmit it across the state.

But Griffin was really intrigued by the security measures at the plant. "We had to go through countless security checkpoints that included chemical sniffers, X-ray machines, armed guards, turnstiles and metal detectors," he said. "On our way in we even saw a UPS truck being inspected, including the bottom of the truck with a mirror, just like you see in 'CSI.'"

As a civil engineering major, Robert Hatch wasn't sure he would see much that was applicable to his chosen field of study. "However, I was delighted to see that the field of civil engineering plays a critical role in creating and maintaining a nuclear facility," said Hatch, who is president of the ODU chapter of Tau Beta Pi engineering society. "I particularly enjoyed and appreciated seeing the structural aspects of The facility. I was amazed at the thickness of the reactor walls and amount of concrete and steel needed to fabricate such a structure."

The tour was organized to give engineering students of every discipline a chance to see engineering principles in action.

The Surry Nuclear Power Plant, operated by Dominion Generation and owned by Dominion Resources Inc., has two, triple-loop pressurized water reactors, which went online in 1972 and 1973. The combined power outlet of the facility is 1.6 gigawatts, enough to power approximately 75,000 homes.

ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology offers an engineering education that takes advantage of the unique characteristics of the Hampton Roads area and of the university.

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