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Have you ever wondered why shoes hanging on a power line don’t get fried? Or why natural gas flames are blue? Now you can get answers to these and all your energy-related questions. Just Ask an Expert!
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NEW! How does energy work?
Answer: This is a broad question, and it's hard to know exactly what you're asking here. Perhaps you can find an answer to your question on this site within the Electrical Safety World section at http://www.e-smartonline.net/duke-energy/websites/esw.html. Try the "Producing Electricity" link within For Kids/Tell Me More to learn how electricity is generated from both nonrenewable and renewable energy resources. Or, if that's not quite what you're after, try the "Where Electricity Comes From" link within For Kids/The Travels of Electricity.
What do nuclear power plants plan to do with the nuclear wastes buried in the earth? Will they continue to bury it?
Answer: Nuclear plants do not store or bury used nuclear fuel in the earth. Although there are currently no facilities in the United States that allow for a common, permanent location for the disposal of used nuclear fuel, all nuclear power plants store used fuel safely and securely at the plant site. Commercial nuclear power plants were designed and built with storage pools to provide safe on–site storage of used fuel. In addition to storage pools, used fuel is also kept in dry storage canisters or casks. Constructed of many layers of steel and lead, these containers are extremely robust, and are stored on thick concrete pads inside a highly protected area of the plant.
Although the project has been on hold for the past few years, in 2002 Congress had selected Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a permanent location to store used nuclear fuel. This was to be a remote, desert location to be developed as a long-term repository for used nuclear fuel. Because of the delay, nuclear plants are required to store used fuel on site.
Advanced technologies are being developed to recycle used nuclear fuel. A number of other countries outside of the United States, including France, the United Kingdom, and Russia, have successfully used recycling to reduce nuclear waste volume and content for many years. Through a method known as reprocessing, fuel constituents are chemically separated after being removed from the reactor. The uranium recovered through reprocessing can be recycled into new fuel.
What percentage of the electricity I consume comes from petroleum (or oil) power plants? What percentage comes from solar, wind, and biomass?
Answer: Duke Energy operates 14 oil–fired generating plants and stations to produce electricity. These units are used to supplement power supply during peak demand periods when electricity use is highest. Percentages for the energy sources you’ve asked about aren’t available because these vary according to the weather, and also because Duke Energy is in the process of increasing its capacity in renewable energy production. We now have 11 solar farms in four states, totaling 60 MW capacity of solar power, and 15 wind farms in six states generating over 1,600 MW capacity of wind energy, with more wind farms to be completed by the end of 2012. As to biomass power, we buy more than 60 MW of electricity generated by the combustion of methane gas at landfills and the anaerobic digestion of poultry and swine waste in the Carolinas and elsewhere.
How does the electricity I consume in my house get made?
Answer: Electricity starts with atoms, the tiny particles that make up everything around us. Even tinier particles called electrons orbit the center of atoms. When electrons move between atoms through a wire, electricity results. Electricity is typically produced at power plants, where various energy sources are used to turn turbines. The turbines turn electromagnets that are surrounded by heavy coils of copper wire. The moving magnets cause the electrons in the copper wire to move from atom to atom, generating electricity.
What percentage of the electricity I consume comes from nuclear power?
Answer: Nuclear power plays an important role in electricity generation in the Duke Energy service area, specifically within North and South Carolina. The three nuclear stations owned and/or operated by Duke Energy provide about half of the electricity produced in the Carolinas. So if you live in one of these states, about half of the energy you use comes from nuclear power.
What percentage of the electricity I consume comes from hydroelectric power?
Answer: In our area, hydroelectric plants are used for short periods when customer demand for electricity is at a peak. When customers need more power than is typically generated during non-peak times, Duke Energy’s hydro plants can be started up and begin generating electricity very quickly. Hydroelectric generation makes up about 1–3 percent of Duke Energy’s total generation in the Carolinas. Although this is a small amount, hydroelectric power is a critical part of maintaining flexible and reliable power production.
Why do you have only three games on the site?
Answer: There are actually six games on this site. We have updated our See All Games page to make them easier to find: http://www.e-smartonline.net/duke-energy/games/game_landing.html.
If you put your finger in a power system will you get hurt or die?
Answer: NEVER put your finger in a power system or touch a power line because you could get hurt or die! If you put your finger into an electrical system of any kind, whether it is your home wiring system or some larger system of power lines that carry electricity to your neighborhood, you could be shocked by the electricity. You can't know ahead of time how bad the shock would be, but it will definitely not be good for you! Electric shock can cause muscle spasms, shallow breathing, rapid pulse, severe burns, unconsciousness, and yes, even death. So don't ever let any part of your body come in contact with an electrical power system, big or small!
What happens when you touch a power line?
Answer: NEVER touch a power line. You can get hurt! Electricity is always looking for the easiest path to the ground. So if you touch a power line with an object such as a pole or ladder while standing on the ground, or if you touch a power line while climbing a tree or utility pole, you could give the electricity that path to the ground. If so, you could be shocked, severely burned, or even killed. So never touch a power line with your hand or any object, and stay far away from power lines!
Why doesn't a bird get shocked when it sits on the overhead power lines?
Answer: Birds can sit on power lines and not get electric shocks because the electricity is always looking for a way to get to the ground. The birds are not touching the ground or anything in contact with the ground, so the electricity will stay in the power line. But if a bird with large wings touches a power line and a tree or power pole at the same time, it gives electricity a path to the ground, and could be shocked. And if a bird touches two wires at once, it will create a circuit—electricity will flow through the bird and likely electrocute it.