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Learning Community Courses Tour Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant

On Mar. 21, College of Business Administration Adjunct Instructor Paul McCullough and Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Rachel Rigsby took their linked Learning Community Courses to the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Hollywood, Ala.

Before beginning the tour, each student had to register individually as part of a safety procedure.

McCullough and Rigsby’s courses, economic inquiry and entry-level chemistry respectively, are linked through the concept of energy, which was reinforced by the trip to the power plant. “The reason for doing nuclear energy is that it’s less expensive—once you get the plant,” said McCullough. “Building is expensive.”

The Bellefonte plant had to close down during construction due to a lack of funding. After the stoppage in the late 1980s, construction resumed in 2010, and the plant is scheduled to be fully complete in 2015.

“It was interesting because we got to hear the economics behind building a plant—and they didn’t plan, so they had to start and stop,” said Brendan Wright, a sophomore audio engineering technology major.

The tour was given by a man who had spent more than 30 years working at the plant. “He ended up addressing things without us mentioning them,” said McCullough. In order to take the tour, the group had to gear up as part of safety protocol. They donned hard hats, gloves and goggles.

Safety protocol for the plant and plant workers was even more extensive and impressed a number of the students. “It was surprising how safe the plant was,” said Michael Reily, a freshman religion and the arts major. “They are keeping the facilities safe, and not just in case of an accident.”

The guide helped the group better understand nuclear power and plants. “He really was going out of his way to prevent misconceptions,” said Nick DiMaria, a junior music business major. It also helped some of the students better understand their own classes, as both professors had hoped.

“It really illustrated the links between the classes,” said Ben Jones, a freshman computer science major.

Training facility for Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant

After the tour, the group also had the opportunity to visit a training facility for plant workers. There, the group was able to learn more about the organizational structure of the plant and engage in hands-on activities.

McCullough first got the idea for the trip while driving to his second home in Alabama. “I drive past it all the time, and one day I just stopped, got out and asked,” he said. From there, he went to Belmont to schedule the trip. “It was a complex process [because of the plant],” he explained. However, it was ultimately approved.

This is Rigsby and McCullough’s first time teaching linked courses together, and they hope to replicate the courses and trip in the future.

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