On Wednesday, October 17th, 2018, Three Mile Island (TMI) Women in Nuclear chapter hosted thirty-three Middletown Area High School students and three teachers at the Three Mile Island Training Center for a fun fact-filled day of learning. The day consisted of presentations, demonstrations and hands-on activities to educate the young minds about the nuclear sciences and career paths.
The day kicked off with TMI’s Plant Manager providing an overview of TMI and its history; the nuclear energy fleet and why nuclear is an important viable energy to have. This was followed by an overview of nuclear power production and fission using PowerPoint slides and a video. A basic plant diagram was used to show the main plant systems (Primary, Secondary and Circulatory). Each system’s importance, their redundancy and barriers to keep them maintained separately was discussed. As TMI’s top value is safety, a discussion about industrial safety followed by an interactive game of ‘What’s wrong in this picture’ ensued. The use of safety harnesses and cooling vest were discussed, and students were invited to try these on.
The class was then split into smaller groups that rotated to several different activity areas. Smaller groups made the presenters and demonstrations more up close and personal. Smaller groups give students a less stressful environment for asking questions. At each of the activities, the instructor provided information on their schooling, career path and potential paths.
In the radiation group, students were provided with information on radiation, interactions and decay. Hands-on demonstrations using a frisker with man-made items such as a welding rod and Fiesta Ware and an RP training simulation instrument to ‘find a source’ were used.
At the chemical interaction table, the students were engaged with a game of ‘Good or Bad’ reaction cards; students also made slime to learn about proper measuring and mixing of chemicals. This taught students that it is important to know what you are working with and to utilize precision.
In a group on fuel and fission barriers, an Operations Instructor used a model fuel bundle to explain the makeup of a fuel bundle and the core; how the core operates and what fission barriers are and their importance.
At a station on contamination and personal monitoring, the students performed contamination dress-out. They learned what radioactive contamination is and ways to mitigate as well as protect from it. Dosimeters of Legal Record and electronic dosimeters were shown and discussed.
In another group, students built candy reactors. The students were provided the parts and instructions for making their own reactor. Each part was discussed as to how it related to a real nuclear reactor.
The last of the groups was a visit to the Control Room Simulator. Always a favorite with its many bells and whistles, students enjoyed a trip to the TMI control room. Here they were provided information on why and how operators train. The significance of following procedures and staying in roles was discussed. Several students participated in hands-on operation of the control room and the importance of using proper 3-way communication.
To keep the day moving, the class was shown a short video (from nuclear connect.org) over lunch that discussed many of the exciting and rewarding careers available in the nuclear sciences. From radiopharmaceuticals to energy production, space exploration and more. The participants in the video discussed different paths that could be taken, and how each built off others to shape their life and the world around them.
The class ended the day by filling out feedback forms to help us improve future nuclear science weeks, and find out what the students thought of the day. Overall the students felt the presenters were very knowledgeable in their topics and found it interesting that several of the presenters started out in different fields and took paths that ended up bringing them to nuclear energy. Being able to do hand-on activities to help explain and instill what they learned was also a big plus. Based on feedback, the class believes nuclear is not only ‘cool’ but is a great source of clean energy and will be sad if it goes away. Each student and teacher left with a recyclable TMI Go Clean Go Green Go Nuclear tote bag containing gift reminders of their visit as well as a copy of the NEI ‘Just the Facts’ handout to share the facts about nuclear with their families and friends. Overall it was an exciting fun day of learning.