Understanding various aspects of power generation and the people involved are valuable resources to developing a well-rounded nuclear professional. On a recent trip to SCE&G’s McMeekin Fossil and Saluda Hydro Generating Stations, 19 members of the VC Summer and Consortium NAYGN chapter did just that.
After an introductory presentation on the history of the plants, attendees first saw McMeekin Fossil which was shut down for a maintenance outage. McMeekin is a two unit facility at 125 MW each and began operation in 1958 with only 61 employees. Today, with a conversion to natural gas, the plant operates with approximately 45 employees. The age of the design truly stands out as you read the pressure gauges and observe the hand cranks. While the basic principle of thermal to mechanical energy is the same as in nuclear, the package is smaller yet operates at much higher temperature.
Saluda Hydro was initially constructed in 1929 consisting of four turbines with a fifth turbine added in 1971 for a total generating capacity of 202 megawatts. Saluda Hydro was constructed entirely of rivets, with not a weld in sight. Construction completed in 1929 and Lake Murray, named after the project’s innovator William S. Murray of the New York engineering firm Murray and Flood, began to fill. The first kilowatts were produced on December 1st, 1930. Generation is still provided by the original pumps and turbines, staffed by a four person team on rotation. The backup dam, completed in 2005, was a result of reevaluation of the 1886 Charleston earthquake. While the Richter Scale had not been developed yet, it is estimated the earthquake was a 7.3 magnitude. This tour provided some unique highlights and insights to a rich history of both the area and the company. I encourage everyone to look outside their domains and see what else we can learn.
Thank you to all of the tour guides both at McMeekin Fossil and Saluda Hydro as well as those that assisted with planning and driving the bus.