BYRON - It's one of the most recognizable sights in the stateline: the two towers that shoot steam high in the sky can been seen from miles away. Many know the Byron nuclear power plant, but few have ever stepped inside.
"When we wake up in the morning, we see those towers outside our bathroom window. Now I can see what's inside," said Winnebago resident Ray Dyreson, who attended an open house at the plant, who invited the public to see how it works. It was all to celebrate 30 years of accident-free operation.
"We practice and drill, and prepare for an event, if it was to occur, to make sure we could minimize it and communicate with the local and state authorities," said Plant Manager Patrick Boyle. Hundreds of stateline residents were shown equipment and the operations which are carried out inside the plant that gives power to nearly two million homes.
Part of that operation is the control room. Everyone was shown an exact replica of the control room used inside the plant. "There was a lot of buttons, it was like 'Star Trek'," said stateline resident Andrew O'Brien.
Visitors got up close and were shown what each knob, handle, and screen was meant for. They also were shown what would be done in case of an emergency. The open house ultimately served two purposes: one, was give the public a rare look inside. The other, was to get students interested in a potential career.
"We're looking for people, the next generation of nuclear workers," said Boyle. "So, we want to foster any curiosity that people have about nuclear power and are really looking for the next set of nuclear leaders," he added.
One of those leaders could be Madison Thom. Thom's a sophomore at Parker High School in Janesville. She says her classes have piqued her interest in nuclear science.
"This experience is just cool, all together," Thom said. "We're right next to the actual thing, the whole idea of it is just really cool," she added.
The plant is scheduled to have routine maintenance done on one it's cooling towers in the coming months. Staff says this will open up another opportunity for residents to see the inner workings of the plant.
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