By John Lindsey
AVILA BEACH – A visit to PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant already was an impressive agenda for a school field trip, but some of the nearly 100 students and teachers from a Central Valley middle school got an added bonus.
They saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
The group, from La Vina Middle School, toured Diablo Canyon on May 15. The school is located in Delano, a small culturally diverse farming community along Highway 99 in the San Joaquin Valley.
For a few students, it was the first time they had seen the Pacific Ocean. And, for all of them, it was the first time they had visited a nuclear power plant.
The students and teachers gathered at the PG&E Energy Education Center here for a short safety presentation and to learn how the plant works.
Then, they boarded two large buses and went through the front gate near Port San Luis with its numerous boats moored along the shoreline. The two buses drove nearly seven miles along the spectacular Pecho Coastline to the power plant. They saw the rugged shoreline and spectacular views of the dynamic interface between ocean and land.
The students had lunch in the Diablo Canyon training building, than toured the simulator—a replica of the power plant’s Unit One control room. They saw firsthand how plant operators spend 20 percent of their time in training. Afterwards, they toured the intake and outfall structures, which offered unique views of marine life along the Central Coast.
However, the highlight of the power plant tour was the PG&E Diablo Canyon Fire Station. PG&E firefighters demonstrated firefighting and first-aid techniques. The students and teachers toured the firefighting trucks, the station and operated a small hose and nozzle under the watchful eyes and close guidance from PG&E firefighters.
The tour was clearly a hit and an unforgettable experience. Many students asked what they needed to do to become a firefighter, marine biologist or engineer.
Abel Lopez, a math and science teacher at La Vina, agreed that the field trip was a great complement to his classroom instruction.
“The fact that we teach them and take them out into the environment makes them really understand it,” he said.
Each year, about 2,500 visitors tour Diablo Canyon Power Plant, which provides safe, clean energy for 3 million California residents. That includes 125 tour groups. Schools, clubs and other organizations interested in touring the plant can find more information at www.DiabloCanyonPGE.com or by calling (805) 546-5280