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Environment & Energy

Nuclear Power Plant Spawned Band of Snow over Western Pennsylvania

The National Weather Service said a nuclear power plant in Shippingport, PA was partially responsible for a narrow band of snow that fell on parts of western Pennsylvania Tuesday night.

Chief Meteorologist Rich Kane said the conditions were ripe for the incident: the cooling tower spews moisture and the air outside was frigid.

“So it’s everything you need to have like a mini lake Erie,” he said, “if we had hundreds of cooling towers right upstream from us, we would have hundreds of plumes coming up and it would almost resemble a lake effect.”

Steam was pumped into the air from two cooling towers at the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station and three similar towers at the coal-fired Bruce Mansfield Station next to it created the snow. Though the source was possibly the nuclear power plant, the snow was not considered dangerous.

“It was strictly a heat and moisture source,” said Kane, “there’s nothing else besides that, it would be just like any other heat or moisture source that would cause condensation.”

Areas due east of the power plants — which are about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh — reported one to three inches of snow.