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No Nukes

Stanton Energy Center, showing the two cooling towers

Stanton Energy Center, showing the two cooling towers

ORLANDO UTILITIES COMMISSION

Q: Is the huge complex with the two cooling towers east of Orlando a nuclear power plant?

A: The sight of cooling towers tends to cause foreboding in the populace, probably because they became an ominous symbol of the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactors in Pennsylvania 35 years ago. But there is no nuclear power being generated at the Orlando Utilities Commission’s Stanton Energy Center, located north of the Beach Line Expressway. The center uses two coal-fired units, two natural gas units and an array of solar panels to generate electricity.

Still, there are non believers.

“To this day, I have friends who, when I try to convince them the plant isn’t nuclear, won’t believe me,’’ says Jan Aspuru, OUC’s vice president for electric and water production. “They think I’m hiding it from them.’’

The cooling towers are connected to the coal-fired units, which were built in 1987 and 1996. Basically, the power generating process works this way: Coal, which arrives at the center by rail, is burned in a boiler to superheat water. The resulting steam drives a turbine, which then spins a generator that produces electricity. The spent steam then goes into a condenser, where cooling water transforms it back into H20 to go through the process again. Some of that cooling water evaporates through the two towers. That’s right—what you see coming out of those towers is not coal waste, but pure steam, Aspuru says. What coal waste there is comes from two skinny stacks at the power-generation unit. But even that is more than 90 percent steam, he says.

And here’s an environmental gold star: The water used in the cooling process doesn’t come from underground or from natural lakes. It’s partially treated wastewater from a county reclamation facility that is piped into reservoirs next to the energy center.

Q: How did Semoran Boulevard get its name?

A: Just for fun, Answer Man posed this question to numerous colleagues and acquaintances and most often received this response: “That’s an Indian name, right?’’ No, a Semoran nation never existed, nor apparently has any tribe used the word. Moreover, there is no evidence of a Central Florida pioneer family bearing the surname Semoran.

The answer is amazingly obvious, but perhaps because of the way Semoran is pronounced (SEM-uh-raan), it just doesn’t register for many. The explanation lies at the end of the following sentence, so have fun with this bit of trivia at your next happy hour gathering:

Semoran Boulevard—built in the 1960s and also known as State Road 436—runs through Seminole and Orange counties.

Answer Man welcomes your questions about the Orlando area. Send queries to answerman@orlandomagazine.com

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