The excursion started yesterday, when I went to the office and collected a vehicle and drove to Chattanooga, TN, about 2 hours from Atlanta. There I met up with the others in the thermoelectric power water use project (Kim from Ohio, Susan from Memphis, and Tim, Melissa, and Rick from Nashville) at a Tennessee Valley Authority office. There we spent the afternoon with several TVA employees getting introductions to various topics we were interested in (like water flows and measurement in power plants) and others that were fascinating, if someone tangential to what we're doing (like how TVA controls the river flows to help the thermoelectric plants meet their environmental permit limits). This was all organized by Chuck from TVA, a long-time contact of Susan's.
Last night we had a nice time exploring part of downtown Chattanooga, which is really a nice tourist destination these days--I should get up there more often for fun. The aquarium was closed for the evening, but we walked down to the river, browsed the menus for a number of the restaurants before ending up at Sticky Fingers for barbecue, and then wandered back to the Sheraton Read House where we were staying. Most of this wandering was done on the free electric shuttle which runs up and down Broad Street from the aquarium area near the river to the Chattanooga Choo Choo area.
This morning two TVA guys met us at the hotel and we set off for TVA's Widow's Creek Power Plant, in NE Alabama. Outfitted in steel-toed boots, hard hats, safety glasses, and earplugs, and carrying leather gloves, we got a tour of the grounds and part of Unit 8 of the plant. (Plant Engineer: "Got your leather gloves on your person? You're not going to touch anything, but if you do, put on the gloves first.") Oh, and we all wore the recommended long-sleeved shirt...on a day with the temperature outside at about 92 F, and we were climbing up and down stairs in a coal-fired power plant.
The outside stuff was most interesting and most intelligible, probably because we could get explanations there--the noise inside the power plant precluded anything but occasional shouted questions. I think Tim, our most knowledgeable team member, followed most of what we saw inside the plant, but for me and I think the others, mostly we saw lots of different pumps. The coal pulverizers were labelled, so I ID'd them. <g> The huge generators were rather obvious. Apparently we saw the condensers down in the bottom level of the plant, but I have no idea what they looked like.
Outside, on the other hand, we saw the ash pond system, the gypsum pond system, the diversion point from the river for the water intake, the intake screens and pumps, and the outfall locations, plus got to see construction underway on one of the gypsum ponds. We heard about good re-uses of their waste, like selling the gypsum pond fill for making wallboard, and their cenosphere sales.
Plant tour over, the Nashville folks headed west, and Susan and I rode with Chuck back to Chattanooga. I dropped Susan off at the airport for her flight to Memphis, and I drove back to Atlanta, just beating the rush-hour traffic.
Forgot to mention one safety item: the mini-briefing Chuck gave us on ammonia. There's significant anhydrous ammonia stored on the plant site, so a safety lesson is supposed to be required for all plant visitors. (We actually missed this, and so had to have an escort at all times...which we would have had, anyway.) Chuck's version was "if you hear the siren, run like hell upwind of the ammonia. If you get downwind, there's no hope." We all checked out the wind sock on our way in.